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West Virginia Mountaineers vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Prediction

Skyler Howard

Skyler Howard

A lot has changed for both BYU (1-2) and West Virginia (2-0) since this game was scheduled back in 2010.

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In 2010, just a few years after Rich Rod left for Michigan, the Mountaineers were still in the Big East and the late Bill Stewart was their head coach. 

For BYU, the Cougars were in the Mountain West and Bronco Mendenhall was the headman in Provo.

Flash forward to today, West Virginia is in the Big 12, BYU is an independent that is trying to scratch and claw their way into the Big 12, and the two teams have completely different head coaches in terms of philosophy than the previous coaches in Dana Holgorsen (WVU) and Kalani Sitake (BYU).

For West Virginia, this game gives them the opportunity to complete non-conference with an undefeated and join Baylor, as the only two teams in the league to enter Big 12 play undefeated.

BYU, on the other hand, is looking to get back track after two straight losses to rival Utah and UCLA.  Can BYU pull off a win in the Eastern time zone where they are 3-11 since 2000?  The last win came against UConn in 2014.

This game will be played at FedEx Field, home of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, and will be considered a home game for the Mountaineers.

BYU vs. West Virginia (Landover, Md.)

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24th at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: West Virginia -7

Three Things to Watch

1. The Big 12 expansion angle

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We saw in week one how much attention Houston, a Big 12 expansion candidate, received after defeated Big 12 power Oklahoma.  The victory had the Coogs rising in the expansion process ever since.

Now, BYU’s opportunity against an unranked West Virginia isn’t as large of an opportunity as Houston’s, but it’s still a game that gives BYU a chance to show they can run with the Big 12.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen acknowledged that there would likely be more at stake for BYU in this game with Big 12 expansion being in the backdrop of this game.

2. West Virginia wide receivers vs. BYU secondary

Mountaineer wide receiver Ka’Raun White had some interesting quotes regarding BYU receivers earlier in the week:

“The (BYU) corners, I don’t think they can run with us. They look solid, but they don’t look like they can keep up.”

Will BYU’s secondary answer the bulletin board material that White has now posted? West Virginia boasts some of the best receivers in the Big 12 with White, Daikiel Shorts, and Shelton Gibson who had 171 receiving yards against Youngstown State two weeks ago.

3. Will BYU make a change at quarterback?

Taysom Hill has struggled in offensive coordinator Ty Detmer’s new pro-style offense through the first three games of the season. Many in BYU’s fan base want backup Tanner Mangum to step in for Hill. Mangum won eight games as a starter after Hill went down with a Lisfranc injury.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake has emphasized that Taysom Hill is their quarterback and they will stay the course with Hill.  But if the offense continues to go south with Hill under center, do they look for a change for this week to give a spark to the offense that is still looking for their identity?

Final Analysis

West Virginia has an explosive offense that Holgorsen said traces back to the old BYU days under LaVell Edwards. West Virginia’s offense will be the toughest test yet for a BYU defense that has been lights out through the first quarter of the year.

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West Virginia has had two weeks to prepare for BYU, while the Cougars have played one of the toughest schedules in the nation through the first three weeks of the season and had to battle for a full 60 minutes in each game. BYU’s depth will be tested in this one, while West Virginia is fresh and ready to go.

This will be a close game, but the outcome will never be in doubt. West Virginia comes out of FedEx Field with a solid win to get them ready for Big 12 play.

Prediction:  West Virginia 28, BYU 16