The BYU Cougars are quietly positioning themselves as a threat to challenge for a New Year's Six bowl slot as the Cougars host the UTSA Roadrunners on Saturday.
The No. 15 Cougars (3-0) are off to their best start since 2014 and are enjoying their highest ranking since 2009 after demolishing each of their first three opponents. BYU leads the nation in both total offense (585.7 ypg) and total defense (214.3 ypg) — a rare feat for any football team. While the strength of their revised ad-hoc schedule isn't ideal, the Cougars are doing exactly what good teams should do against lesser foes.
The Roadrunners (3-1) are the latest team to face the seemingly impossible challenge of declawing these Cougars. UTSA has fared well on defense through its first four games, but the Roadrunners have not generated any consistent speed on offense yet. In a 21-13 loss to UAB on Saturday, they mustered just 280 total yards and went 2-of-13 on third downs. The Roadrunners forced four turnovers but could not finish enough drives to stay undefeated.
This is the first meeting between the two schools. BYU is 36-12-1 all-time against current Conference USA teams.
UTSA at No. 15 BYU
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 10 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: BYU – 34.5
When UTSA Has the Ball
The Roadrunners could have their starting quarterback available just in time for their trek to Utah. Frank Harris sat out against UAB after suffering a sprained knee during the second quarter of UTSA's win over Middle Tennessee a week earlier. Having Harris back on the field will offer a critical boost to the Roadrunner offense.
Harris leads UTSA with 508 passing yards and is second in rushing with 162 yards. His mobility will be key to keeping a tough BYU defense from swarming him with pressure. Jordan Weeks struggled in relief of Harris and backup quarterback Josh Adkins, who broke his collarbone on the first play against UAB. Weeks threw for just 57 yards and an interception on 7-of-19 passing against the Blazers and was also sacked three times.
Sincere McCormick will put BYU's run defense to the test. McCormick leads the nation with 527 total rushing yards. The sophomore is averaging 5.9 yards per carry through his first four games. McCormick piled up a career-best 197 yards on 29 carries in a 51-48 victory over Texas State in the season opener. He finished with 150 yards on 22 carries against UAB for his fifth career 100-yard game. UTSA is 5-2 in games where McCormick tallies 90 or more rushing yards.
When BYU Has the Ball
The Cougars are averaging an incredible 8.1 yards per play through their first three games. Zach Wilson is a huge reason why BYU's offense is enjoying such a high level of production.
Wilson is garnering tons of attention nationally for his efficient passing. The junior quarterback leads the nation in completion rate (84.5 percent) He is second among FBS players in yards per attempt (13.37) and passing efficiency (221.85). Wilson posted back-to-back 300-yard passing games against Troy and Louisiana Tech. He is also the first BYU quarterback to have a pass efficiency rating of more than 200 in three consecutive games. Against Louisiana Tech, Wilson passed for 325 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-26 passing.
While Wilson tears it up through the air, the Cougars also continue to punish opponents on the ground. Tyler Allgeier is an emerging star in the backfield. The redshirt sophomore back ranks 14th nationally with 275 total rushing yards and 12th in the FBS with 8.1 yards per carry. Allgeier gained 168 yards on 26 carries in his first two seasons combined and actually switched to linebacker at one point before returning to running back last season. As long as he stays healthy, Allgeier will make it easier for Wilson to work his magic in the passing game.
It will take a minor miracle for UTSA to stay competitive with BYU for more than a quarter. The Cougars are not going to play Wile E. Coyote to these Roadrunners. BYU has more talent, depth, and athleticism on both sides of the ball. Don't be surprised if the script on Saturday feels like a rerun of the first three games for the Cougars.
Prediction: BYU 45, UTSA 10
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of @BYUfootball)