Whenever BYU plays an FCS opponent, it’s an odd feeling. On one hand, winning the game is always the number one goal. However, against FCS teams, it seems that how the team wins and by how much matters.
BYU plays North Alabama of the Big South Conference of the FCS this Saturday in Provo and the Cougars are a 47.5-point favorite. With the Cougars rolling at 8-0 and a No. 8 ranking, the expectation is that of a blowout.
Let’s take a quick look back at the FCS opponents BYU has faced since Kalani Sitake took over as head coach in 2016.
Southern Utah, 2016
The majority of FCS opponents are local, in order to cash in on a big fish willing to play them nearby and boost the overall economy of football in the area. The Thunderbirds of Cedar City made the three hour bus ride to Provo with BYU nursing a 5-4 record.
The Cougars scored in less than three minutes when Taysom Hill ran for a 16-yard score. Most of the scoring happened before halftime as Hill added two scores through the air. KJ Hall ran for a touchdown and BYU had a 31-7 lead at the half.
The starters were taken out early on in the second half and Tanner Mangum led two drives that ended in field goals. BYU won the game 37-7. BYU’s leading rusher was KJ Hall and leading receiver was Mitchell Juergens with 82 yards. This win gave BYU six wins, which made them bowl eligible.
Portland State, 2017
Many fans try to forget that 2017 ever happened. From the get-go, this season looked concerning as they struggled to find a rhythm even against the Vikings of Portland State. The Cougars struggled on offense for much of the day. The game was scoreless until late in the first quarter when Tanner Mangum found Neil Pau’u. The Vikings mostly stifled the offensive attack and the Cougars went into the half up by just one score, 14-6.
The lethargic offense mustered just six points in the second half and the Cougars won 20-6. However, it was a foreshadowing of what was to come in a very trying season in Provo, as the Cougars finished 4-9 and missed a bowl and many assistant coaches did not return the next season.
McNeese State, 2018
BYU welcomed McNeese State to Provo the week following BYU’s biggest upset in the Kalani Sitake era, beating No. 6 Wisconsin in Madison. BYU entered the game with their first ranking, at No. 25, since 2015.
The Cougars scored 24 points in the second quarter led by two rushing scores by Lopini Katoa. Tanner Mangum also found Talon Shumway for a passing score. After the second quarter, it seemed that BYU hit cruise control. They removed many of the starters and true freshman Zach Wilson saw his first action as BYU won 30-3. They scored 30 unanswered points after the Cowboys took a brief, early lead, aided by the BYU defense forcing four turnovers.
Idaho State, 2019
The Bengals of Pocatello paid a visit in mid-November. BYU entered the game with a three-game winning streak including wins over Boise State and Utah State. This game was over fairly quickly with BYU jumping out to a 28-3 lead with five minutes left in the first half. Overall, BYU’s offense totaled 449 yards and Sione Finau eclipsed 100 yards rushing with a touchdown.
BYU scored 14 points in the third quarter and one of the scores was defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga running the ball three yards into the end zone. BYU cruised and it was 42-3 until a late touchdown for the Bengals. This win got BYU bowl eligible.
What To Expect Saturday
Historically, under Kalani Sitake, BYU has not completely blown FCS teams out of the water. The trend seems to be getting off to a fast start and hitting cruise control. With BYU being a nearly 48-point favorite against North Alabama in the middle of an undefeated season, things feel a little different this time around. Of course, the main goal is still to win the game and keep Zach Wilson healthy. However, let’s be honest, a margin of victory less than four touchdowns would be disappointing. Look for BYU to start out strong and pull back the starters once again but this team is too deep and too good to let North Alabama anywhere near this ballgame.