Trojans, Cougars face off on Saturday night for the first time ever
Sun Belt teams went 3-0 against Big 12 squads two weeks ago and the FBS independent Cougars represent another golden opportunity to make a splash nationally. The Trojans have a past track record for taking down their fair share of giants, but face a huge challenge in doing it against the Cougars.
BYU (1-0) demolished Navy 55-3 on Labor Day to open the season. The Cougars used a mix of a balanced offense and stifling defense to impose their will on the Midshipmen. They racked up 580 total yards — 301 on the ground and 279 through the air. Defensively, BYU allowed just 149 yards and seven first downs.
Troy (1-0) is fresh off a dominating 47-14 victory over Middle Tennessee in its season opener. The Trojans rolled up 496 yards and converted 13-of-19 third downs against the Blue Raiders. Troy broke open a close game with 40 unanswered points over the final three quarters.
This is the first meeting between both schools. BYU is 3-0 all-time against current Sun Belt teams.
Troy at No. 18 BYU
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 26 at 10:15 p.m. ET
Spread: BYU -14.0
When Troy Has the Ball
Gunnar Watson showed some serious game-changing potential in his first career start. Watson threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns on 26-of-37 passing against Middle Tennessee. He became the first Troy quarterback to win in his debut since 2010.
Ten different receivers recorded a reception for the Trojans in their opener. Khalil McCain and Bret Clark had the biggest impact, combining for 12 catches and 134 yards. McCain also had a pair of touchdown catches. The depth of the receiver corps is one of Troy's key strengths on offense this season and will be one area where the Trojans test opposing defenses.
Depth at running back will also serve Troy well. B.J. Smith racked up 81 yards on just 10 carries in the opener. The senior looked as formidable as when he won All-Sun Belt honors in 2018. Last year's rushing leader DK Billingsley offers a nice change-of-pace option when Smith needs a rest.
When BYU Has the Ball
The Cougars showed an ability to dominate on the ground against Navy that could serve them well all season. Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa took turns shredding the Midshipmen. Allgeier posted his first career 100-yard game, running for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns while averaging 9.4 yards per carry. Katoa added 80 yards and a pair of scores on 10 carries. Such an effective one-two punch could alleviate defensive pressure on quarterback Zach Wilson.
Wilson did plenty of damage through the air too. The junior extended BYU's string of 200-yard passing games to 16 consecutive after finishing with 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns while completing 72 percent of his attempts. His favorite target, Gunner Romney, tallied 134 yards and a touchdown on just four receptions. Wilson's strong opener is a good sign for the Cougars, who lost their top receiving threat when tight end Matt Bushman suffered a season-ending injury in fall camp.
BYU enters its second game ranking in the top 10 nationally in several key offensive categories. The season is still young, but that offers a promising sign for a Cougars squad that struggled to finish drives throughout the 2019 season.
BYU is 6-0 in home openers against teams outside the Power 5 since 2000. The Cougars can expect a battle from Troy for a while. But how much have the Trojans progressed from the team that struggled defensively against a majority of opponents during head coach Chip Lindsey's debut season? The guess here is that BYU's experience and talent advantage on both sides of the ball will be the difference.
Prediction: BYU 38, Troy 20
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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.