The past collides with the present when BYU hosts Virginia on Saturday night.
The No. 25 Cougars (6-2) face a reunion with former head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who led BYU from 2005 to 2015 before heading east to Virginia. BYU climbed back into the AP Top 25 Poll ahead of the showdown with the Cavaliers after edging Washington State 21-19 last weekend. The Cougars ran for a season-high 238 yards on their way to improving to 4-0 against Pac-12 teams this season. It also marked the fourth time BYU held an opponent to fewer than 20 points in 2021.
The Cavaliers (6-2, 4-2 ACC) are riding a four-game winning streak heading into their visit to Utah. Virginia outlasted Georgia Tech 48-40 last weekend to get bowl eligible. Over the last four games, the Cavaliers are averaging 40 points per contest. Virginia has been held under 500 total yards just once this season and generated a season-high 636 yards and 8.7 yards per play against Georgia Tech.
Virginia is 3-2 all-time against BYU. The Cougars have the most recent win in the series, defeating the Cavaliers 41-33 in Provo in 2014.
Virginia at No. 25 BYU
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 30 at 10:15 p.m. ET
Spread: BYU -2.5
When Virginia Has the Ball
Brennan Armstrong is on track to becoming a record-setting quarterback. Armstrong needs 319 passing yards to claim Virginia's single-season record. With him running the offense, the Cavaliers lead the nation with 3,237 passing yards. Virginia is fourth nationally in total offense, averaging 539.9 yards per game. Armstrong leads the nation with 3,220 passing yards and is completing 64.2 percent of his attempts.
Five different receivers have totaled at least 350 receiving yards — the most of any FBS team. Dontayvion Wicks is far and away the biggest playmaking threat in that receiver corps. Wicks is coming off back-to-back 100-yard games for the second time this season and has racked up 847 yards and eight touchdowns on just 38 catches. Keytaon Thompson and Billy Kemp IV are reliable receivers who consistently move the chains on short and intermediate routes.
Virginia's offense is a bit one-dimensional at times. The Cavaliers will need to get a consistent running attack going against BYU to take pressure off Armstrong, but that's easier said than done. Only one Virginia player, Wayne Taulapapa, has rushed for more than 200 yards this season. Taulapapa has totaled 258 yards through seven games and has rushed for 50 or more yards on just two occasions.
When BYU Has the Ball
Tyler Allgeier put the Cougars on his shoulders against Washington State and ground out a narrow victory with one of his finest performances of the season. Allgeier rushed for 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 32 carries. Allgeier has racked up 866 yards on the ground and 11 rushing touchdowns through eight games. He is on track to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and could reach the mark against Virginia. As long as Allgeier remains healthy, he is head coach Kalani Sitake's No. 1 weapon on offense.
Another productive outing from Allgeier will draw some defensive attention away from quarterback Jaren Hall and let him keep defenders off balance with his arm and his legs. Hall only threw for 143 yards against Washington State, but he completed 75 percent of his pass attempts. Ironically, BYU's only losses this season have come in games where Hall has thrown for at least 300 yards. The Cougars do best when he isn't shouldering the load on offense alone.
Three different players — Gunner Romney, Puka Nacua, and Neil Pau'u — have at least 400 receiving yards for BYU. Pau'u took his turn stepping up against Washington State after Romney got hurt and Nacua got blanketed in coverage. He tallied 70 yards on six catches, his best outing since racking up 126 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches against Arizona in the season opener.
History is not favoring Virginia going into this matchup. The Cavaliers have not won five straight games since 2007 and have not beaten a ranked opponent on the road or won three consecutive road games in the same season since 2011. BYU's defense got back on track against Washington State after a shaky performance against Baylor two weeks ago. The Cougars like to employ a drop-8 scheme on defense, which works well against pass-oriented attacks. Virginia's defense has been feast or famine this season. The Cavaliers will get gobs of yards and some points, but BYU will make just enough plays to survive a late-night shootout.
Prediction: BYU 34, Virginia 31
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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.