Fresh off a second straight win over a Top 25 opponent, BYU looks to close out September with a perfect record when it hosts USF on Saturday night.
The No. 15 Cougars (3-0) led wire-to-wire in a 27-17 victory over then-No. 19 Arizona State last weekend. BYU forced four turnovers, starting with a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff, and never let the Sun Devils draw closer than four points the entire game. The Cougars totaled only 361 yards against Arizona State but came up with big plays at critical junctures to earn their third consecutive win over a Pac-12 opponent.
The Bulls (1-2) finally got into the win column last weekend with a 38-17 victory over FCS Florida A&M. USF totaled 404 yards on offense, including 241 on the ground, on its way to dispatching the Rattlers. South Florida finally found some success moving the chains after averaging just 10 points per game in its two losses.
BYU and USF have only met once before this season. The Bulls rallied to upset the Cougars 27-23 in 2019 after scoring 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
USF at No. 15 BYU
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 25 at 10:15 p.m. ET
Spread: BYU -23
When USF Has the Ball
Freshman quarterback Timmy McClain will get his second straight start when the Bulls head to Provo, Utah, this weekend. That's a promising development for USF based on how McClain fared against Florida A&M. McClain only played three quarters but threw for 163 yards and a touchdown and added 51 yards on the ground. His accuracy as a passer needs to be improved, but McClain moved the chains on offense, something that wasn't happening nearly often enough in South Florida's first two games.
Brian Battie rushed for 110 yards against Florida A&M in a breakout game for the sophomore. Battie put together the second 100-yard game of his career while averaging a robust 11.0 yards per carry. USF looks like a different team when Battie is this potent on the ground. In the teams' two losses, he totaled just 33 yards on 12 carries while splitting reps with Colorado transfer Jaren Mangham.
Taking care of the ball will be critical for USF to have a chance at upsetting BYU. The Cougars have forced seven turnovers in three games and sport a plus-five margin. That has helped BYU rank in the top 30 nationally in scoring defense (16.7 ppg).
When BYU Has the Ball
Jaren Hall is making strides as a passer. Hall threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona State while completing 15 of 27 passes. It marked the second 200-yard game of his BYU career and he matched his career-high for passing yards in a game. Hall's running ability predictably caused Arizona State some problems, but his success at finding receivers helped the Cougars move the chains on a night where the Sun Devils effectively contained their run game until the fourth quarter.
Tyler Allgeier made a game-saving play by chasing down Merlin Robertson following an interception and punching the ball out of his hands with a tomahawk chop before Robinson could take it into the end zone. It underscored Allgeier's value to BYU this season. He is a steady workhorse runner in the backfield who has tallied 265 rushing yards through three games. Allgeier had at least 100 yards in six games last season — highlighted by a career-high 173 yards in the Boca Raton Bowl — and seems to be on the verge of enjoying a similar performance again this season.
Piling up rushing yardage and points in bunches won't be a difficult task against USF. The Bulls have allowed 788 rushing yards through three games. They rank dead last in FBS at 6.97 yards allowed per carry.
USF has looked flat-out terrible against FBS opponents this season. Expecting the Bulls to be competitive against BYU on the road in a late-night game is a bit too much to ask. The Cougars have not only notched back-to-back wins over Top 25 opponents, but they have never trailed at any point so far this season. BYU has the edge on offense, defense, and special teams. This could turn out to be an ugly game in the same vein as the blowout victories that peppered the Cougars' schedule a year ago.
Prediction: BYU 42, USF 10
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– Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.