We finally made it, folks. BYU is playing football today.
BYU faces off versus a very capable Navy team that finished 11-2 and ranked in the top 20 last season. They lose some key pieces, but you can also count on a Navy team to be disciplined.
This game is seen as virtually a toss up, so we give three reasons each for why BYU will either win or lose today.
3 reasons BYU wins:
Reason #1: BYU’s Linebackers and Defensive Tackles
The first key to slowing the triple option is to stop the dive man. If you don’t stop the first option, you are done for. BYU’s pass rush has been lackluster the past few seasons, but one thing BYU doesn’t lack up front is beef, especially in the interior. Khyiris Tonga is BYU’s best 2020 NFL Draft prospect and is a massive human being. Tonga is 6-foot-4, 321 pounds and was dominant at times last season. If Tonga asserts his will versus Navy’s undersized offensive line, BYU’s defense will be in good shape. Alongside Tonga in the interior of the line is 6-foot-4, 305 pounds Lorenzo Fauatea and 6-foot-3, 286 pounds Bracken El-Bakri.
Behind those guys is BYU’s best defensive position group — the linebackers. BYU was young at linebacker last year, but they return virtually every contributor and are stacked at linebacker this season. BYU will employ guys like Isaiah Kaufusi, Payton Wilgar, Max Tooley, Keenan Pili, Max Tooley, Pepe Tanuvasa, and Kavika Fonua around the box and count on them to be disciplined and to wrap up. Chaz Ah You and Zayne Anderson will play a safety/linebacker hybrid and add to that group.
BYU’s beef up front and arsenal of sure-tackling linebackers are the #1 reason why I like BYU in this matchup.
Reason #2: BYU’s Offensive Line
The offensive line is the strength of BYU’s offense, which is no surprise with Kalani as head coach and Jeff Grimes as OC. BYU returns 115 combined starts up front and 8 different guys that have started games. Every player in the two deep tips the scales at over 300 pounds. Navy plays a 3-4 scheme and starts only one player above 260 pounds. Navy was a disruptive defense last year and is expected to be stout once again, but BYU has the size advantage to assert its will.
Reason #3: Quarterbacks
Navy QB Malcolm Perry was an all timer. He was the first FBS QB to ever run for over 2,000 yards in a season and made the Miami Dolphins 53-man roster. He is gone after an illustrious career and in his place is senior Dalen Morris. Morris has played sparingly in his career and didn’t have the benefit of a spring ball. Navy also severely limited contact during fall camp, so it will be interesting to see his timing and decision making in the triple option.
Zach Wilson has had some consistency issues in his two seasons as starter, but he has been brilliant at times and led BYU to some big wins. He spent all of last season recovering from shoulder surgery, but has been 100% this offseason and hasn’t had to worry about rehab.
3 Reasons BYU Loses:
Reason #1: Red zone Scoring
BYU put up yards last season (they were top 30 nationally), but they struggled scoring touchdowns in the rezone. BYU ranked 116th in points per red zone possession, which was a main emphasis during fall camp.
Navy, meanwhile, was third nationally in red zone offense. If those trends continue that could be the difference in a close game.
Reason #2: Lack of Triple Option Experience
BYU DC Ilaisa Tuiaki has very little experience versus the triple option. Coach Sitake has experience from his previous stints as a DC, but he hasn’t faced one while at BYU. Army showed on Saturday in its 42-0 shellacking over Middle Tennessee State how difficult it can be to face the triple option in the season opener. BYU has had about a month to prepare, but facing the scout team is a much different task then playing the well oiled machine of Navy.
Reason #3: BYU’s skill positions
Tight End Matt Bushman bypassed the NFL Draft last season and was expected to anchor BYU’s pass catchers, but he tore his achilles last week and is out for the season. Bushman led BYU in receiving the last three seasons and was BYU’s top NFL Draft prospect at the skill positions. With Bushman out, BYU now replace its top four pass catchers from last season. BYU has some promise with returnees Gunner Romney and Dax Milne, JUCO speedster Chris Jackson, promising freshman tight end Isaac Rex, and Neil Pau’u back from his 2019 suspension, but its a group that will have to step up and replace lost production.
BYU is also thin at running back and will mainly rely on three guys. Lopini Katoa is the main guy and will be supplemented by Tyler Allgeier and Jackson McChesney, but BYU can’t really afford an injury to any one of those guys.
All things considered, I like BYU in this game. BYU has little experience versus the triple option, but they’ve had a month to prepare and matchup fairly well with the guys BYU has at linebacker and defensive tackle. If those guys stay disciplined and BYU’s offensive line asserts its will over the undersized Navy defense then BYU will walk away with a victory.