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National Pundits Preview/Predict BYU-Boise State

NCAA Football: Boise State at Brigham Young Gabe Mayberry-USA TODAY Sports

BYU hosts Boise State in a sold out LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday afternoon in Provo on ABC. The big question for BYU is who will start at quarterback. We may not know until the QB trots out to the field on the first drive, but chances are that we see either Jacob Conover or Jaren Hall as Baylor Romney recovers from an apparent concussion.

National media from around the country previewed and predicted Saturday’s game. We roundup their takes below.

As Chris Vannini detailed this week, the 2-3 Broncos are really struggling to run the ball and to protect quarterback Hank Bachmeier. That seems less than ideal going up against a Kalani Sitake defense. Worth noting: BYU is a modest 70th nationally in YPP allowed (5.4), but the Cougars have been stopping red zone attempts.

BYU 29, Boise State 23

Pick: BYU -5.5

The Broncos are 2-3 and have looked really shaky on defense away from the blue turf (508 yards allowed compared to 350 at home). Expect the Cougars to keep rolling.

BYU 34, Boise State 23

Pick: BYU -5.5

BYU is definitely on a mission. They must keep winning and doing so in impressive fashion if they want to be a part of the New Year’s Six bowl picture. They were able to put Utah State away last week without their starting quarterback the entire game and their backup for the second half of it. The Cougars’ defense and running game are both physical and were enough to carry the day against the Aggies. Boise State will be a tougher challenge for sure. The run/pass balance really hurt the Broncos in their loss to Nevada last week. They gave up 263 yards through the air and 130 yards on the ground. That balance, which BYU possesses, especially if quarterback Jaren Hall plays (they average 224 yards passing and 180 yards rushing), and BYU’s stout defense should be enough to carry them to a home victory and a cover.

Pick: BYU wins and covers 31-20

Boise State at No. 10 BYU (-5.5): Boise State struggles to both run the ball and stop the run. BYU is banged up at the quarterback position but should be able to run the ball well with Tyler Allgeier. In games where BYU is a home favorite during the Kalani Sitake era, the under is 15-7. Pick: Under 57

Cougs have won last two years and covered last three years in series.

Sitake 16-1 SU, 11-5 vs. line since LY.

Broncos 6-2 as dog since 2017 (1-0 for Avalos).

Tech Edge: Slight to BYU, based on recent trends.

BYU’s quarterback situation is the big question, as starter Jaren Hall (ribs) and backup Baylor Romney (concussion) are working their way back, with Hall seemingly closer to returning against Boise State. Romney started for Hall against South Florida and completed 80% of his passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns.

Jacob Conover replaced Romney in last week’s win against Utah State, looking jittery in his first few series but then helping the team to two fourth-quarter scoring drives.

“We knew that Jaren was something special, we knew that Baylor was something special, and we still have a lot of confidence in our third-string quarterback,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake told ESPN last week. “There’s only so many reps to go around, but it’s nice to have a guy like Baylor come in and be able to start a game and not feel like you’re really limited in the playbook. It’s been nice having quarterbacks that can play, and then having guys in there who aren’t always about trying to be the starter. Everybody understands their role, the competition, and supports each other.”

Depth at quarterback and elsewhere has been the story this season for BYU, which lost five players to the NFL draft — including quarterback Zach Wilson (No. 2 overall) and offensive tackle Brady Christensen (third round) — and eight others who became undrafted free agents. The offense isn’t quite as explosive as it was in 2020, but BYU has a solid power run game with Tyler Allgeier. The defense has allowed only two passing touchdowns in five games.

Sitake said the 2020 schedule, which didn’t include BYU’s typical September/October gauntlet of Power 5 opponents, helped the coaches get more young players experience when games had been decided.

“We’ve had years of this type of schedule that really affects your depth because it bangs people up playing P5s early in the season,” Sitake said. “The season affects everybody, but nobody does it like we do. Last year, people talked about our schedule, but Zach Wilson could have had better numbers if we kept him in there. But we knew that we needed him off to keep him healthy, and we wanted to make sure that we get a lot of these younger people that are now starting for us a lot of reps. That was a huge benefit for me.

“Last year’s schedule might have cost us some points, but now it’s helping us win games.”

After facing Boise State, BYU faces three consecutive Power 5 opponents in Baylor (road), Washington State (road) and Virginia (home). — Rittenberg