Game location: McLane Stadium- Waco, TX
Game time/channel: 3:30 PM ET/ESPN
Spread: -5.5 (Baylor)
Head coach: Dave Aranda
If that name sounds slightly familiar to dedicated BYU fans, it’s not a coincidence. Aranda roamed the sidelines for the likes of Hawaii and Utah State about a decade ago. Since then, he has been the defensive coordinator for big time programs like Wisconsin and LSU. He helped LSU stifle BYU’s offense in the 2017 matchup that ended in a 27-0 shutout win for the LSU Tigers.
This is his second season as head coach at Baylor. He took over for Matt Rhule, who darted for the NFL following an 11-3 season in Waco in 2019. The Bears struggled to a 2-7 record in Aranda’s first year but the players have clearly bought in to his style of football as they play tough defense, control the trenches and are off to a 5-1 start.
2021 Season Thus Far
As mentioned, Baylor is 5-1 to start the year, already three more wins than they totaled in the pandemic-riddled 2020 season. They jumped out to a 4-0 start, which included a big win over then-14th-ranked Iowa State. Quarterback Gerry Bohanon accounted for three touchdowns and the win was capped by a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown.
The Bears earned a No. 21 ranking due to their win over Iowa State, which set up a ranked clash with No. 19 Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The Cowboys handed Baylor their first and only loss of the season thus far, by the score of 24-14. Oklahoma State has a tough defense that limited Baylor to less than 300 total yards of offense.
Baylor has since bounced back, with a big win over another Big 12 rival, West Virginia. They racked up a whopping 525 total yards and 45 points against the Mountaineers.
The Baylor offense is rolling ahead of their matchup with BYU.
2021 Team Rankings
Scoring offense: 17th
Total offense: 24th
Passing yards: 65th
Rushing yards: 16th
Scoring defense: 21st
Total defense: 33rd
Pass yards allowed: 15th
Rush yards allowed: 70th
Penalty yards: 114th
Biggest Strength- Rushing offense
Running back Abram Smith spearheads a strong running attack for the Bears. Through six games, he boasts 597 rushing yards, which is the 15th-highest in the country, along with seven touchdowns.
However, he is not a one-man show in the running game. Trestan Ebner also gets his share of carries, with 401 total yards on 6.1 yards per carry. Even Bohanon at quarterback gets involved in the run game, with 124 yards and an eyebrow-raising six rushing touchdowns. BYU will need to be aware of him in goal line situations, as he will seek the end zone with his legs.
Overall, Baylor is fourth in the entire country in rushing yards per carry as a team with 6.1.
Biggest Weakness- Rushing defense
Just as it is difficult to stop Baylor’s run game on offense, they have had a tough time stopping anyone else from running on them. They are 70th in total rushing yards allowed and have allowed over 200 rushing yards twice this year, to Iowa State and Oklahoma State.
BYU should be able to move the ball on the ground with Tyler Allgeier and company. They just need to avoid turnovers.
Best Player- Gerry Bohanon, QB
Bohanon is a force to be reckoned with between his passing game and his legs. Physically, he resembles former NFL MVP Cam Newton with his large frame and willingness to be physical in the run game from the quarterback position.
He is one of just two quarterbacks in the country who have double-digit passing touchdowns with no interceptions. He accounts for 17 total touchdowns through the air and on the ground.
Statistically, he is one of the most productive quarterbacks in the country.
How BYU Can Win
BYU now certainly knows what not to do, which is what they did last week against Boise State — turn the ball over. BYU should be able to establish the run as long as the offensive line maintains control up front. Jaren Hall is reportedly back to full health, which should make BYU’s offense more dynamic than it has been the last few weeks. Avoiding turnovers is vital.
On defense, they need to make sure Bohanon stays in the pocket and doesn’t get comfortable improvising and using his legs. Also, this game will greatly hinge on which team can better establish the run. It’s up to BYU’s front seven to defend the heavy Baylor running attack. If the Cougars can stall Baylor’s running game, they will create a huge advantage in a tough road environment.