Zach Wilson and the undefeated Cougars host the Bobcats from the Sun Belt
The BYU Cougars continue their tour of Texas when they host the Texas State Bobcats on Saturday. If it is anything like the previous two contests against teams from the Lone Star State, BYU can expect another spirited battle this weekend.
The No. 12 Cougars (5-0) rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to pull away late for a 43-26 victory over Houston last Friday night. BYU did not salt away the win until scoring a pair of touchdowns in the final four minutes. Zach Wilson's first 400-yard passing game in his career proved the difference-maker in helping the Cougars match their best start since 2008.
The Bobcats (1-5, 1-2 Sun Belt) have made a habit out of suffering painfully close losses. Four of Texas State's five defeats have come by 10 or fewer points. They carry a three-game losing streak going into Provo after falling 30-20 to South Alabama a week ago. Texas State has struggled on offense since beating ULM, averaging 19.3 points per game during the team's three-game skid.
This is the first-ever game between BYU and Texas State. The two teams share two common opponents. The Cougars edged UTSA 27-20 and demolished Troy 48-7, while the Bobcats fell 51-48 in double overtime to the Roadrunners and lost 37-17 to the Trojans.
Texas State at No. 12 BYU
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 24 at 10:15 p.m. EDT
Spread: BYU -28.5
When Texas State Has the Ball
When the Bobcats successfully move the ball, they normally get it done through the air. Texas State averages 235.7 passing yards per contest, which ranks among the middle-of-the-pack among Sun Belt teams. That might be the Bobcats' best bet to keep up with BYU since the Cougars allow 205.6 passing yards per game.
Brady McBride is coming off his best game with the Bobcats so far. The sophomore threw for 260 yards and completed 70 percent of his passes against South Alabama. McBride bounced back nicely from a tough outing against Troy only a week earlier where he mustered 93 yards and a touchdown on 15-of-28 passing. Jeremiah Haydel is McBride's favorite target with 275 yards and three touchdowns on a team-leading 22 catches through six games.
Texas State will need to find a way to generate production in the backfield against a BYU defense that is allowing just 82.4 yards per game on the ground. Calvin Hill and Brock Sturges have combined for 606 yards and six touchdowns through six games. Neither player has tallied more than 60 rushing yards in a game, however, in the Bobcats' last four games.
When BYU Has the Ball
Zach Wilson has inserted himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation on the heels of his strongest performance of the season. Wilson threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns on 25-of-35 passing against Houston. With Wilson at the controls, BYU has had an FBS-best 100 plays that have gained 10 or more yards. For the season, Wilson leads the nation in completion percentage (78.7). He has thrown for 1,641 yards and 12 touchdowns while tossing just one interception through five games.
Dax Milne and Gunner Romney have emerged as Wilson's favored targets. Romney is questionable for Saturday after suffering a hamstring injury that limited him to a single catch against Houston. Milne is coming off a career-best performance. He totaled 184 yards and three touchdowns on nine catches against Houston. The duo has combined for 1,006 receiving yards for the Cougars through five games. Both Milne and Romney rank in the top 20 among FBS players in receiving yards.
BYU has a similarly effective one-two punch bolstering the backfield. Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa have combined for 642 rushing yards this season. Allgeier is averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has 416 yards through five games. Sione Finau could also possibly see some time on the field this weekend. Finau, the team's leading rusher from a year ago, has not played a snap yet this season while recovering from surgery for a torn ACL in January. Finau is close to full strength and will earn a chance to get back in the rotation once he's ready to go.
BYU will finally get to play a home game in front of fans for the first time this season. That crowd of 6,000 at LaVell Edwards Stadium will likely get treated to a dominant performance on both sides of the ball reminiscent of how the Cougars played in their first three games. Texas State does not have enough firepower on offense to keep up with BYU. The Bobcat defense also hasn't dealt with a playmaking quarterback of Zach Wilson's magnitude this season. Expect this one to be out of reach before halftime.
Prediction: BYU 45, Texas State 17
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— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports, and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.