College football is here.
More importantly, BYU football is here. With just three days to go, I wanted to start taking a look at the teams BYU will face in the 2021 season. Starting of the season, BYU will be facing the University of Arizona at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Arizona is not a team that BYU is unfamiliar with. The two teams have played each other 24 total times, dating back to 1936. Arizona leads the series 12-11-1. The one tie came in 1947, where the game ended 14-14.
More recently, BYU and Arizona have played two times in the last five years, with Saturday’s game being the third, and final of a three game agreement. BYU has won the previous two meetings, the first being in Glendale, AZ. BYU won 18-16 on a last second field goal by freshman Jake Oldroyd, giving Kalani Sitake a win in his first career game as a head coach. The second game was held in 2018 in Tucson, AZ. BYU won 28-23, spoiling Kevin Sumlin’s debut as Arizona’s head coach.
Arizona is coming off of 12 straight losses, dating back to 2019, when they lost to Washington. Their last win came against Colorado on October 5, 2019.
Now, let’s look at this year’s Arizona squad. Starting off at the top, Arizona has an entirely new coaching staff, after Kevin Sumlin was let go following a 70-7 loss to Arizona State in 2020. Jedd Fisch, who was most recently the quarterbacks coach for the New England Patriots, was named as the head coach of Arizona on December 23, 2020.
Next, we’ll take a look at Arizona’s quarterback room. Fisch announced that the UofA would be implementing a two quarterback system with Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer. Both quarterbacks are freshmen, so BYU’s defense should be able to force them into making a few bad decisions with the ball.
At running back, Arizona will be starting sophomore Michael Wiley, who averaged 44 yards per game in 2020. He had 31 attempts for 222 yards and three touchdowns in just five games, with a long of 45 yards. He will be entering his third year, but remaining a sophomore since the NCAA granted a waiver to all athletes, allowing them an extra year of eligibility due to Covid-19.
The offensive line includes two junior transfers, two seniors, and one sophomore, while the receiving corps is made up of a redshirt junior, one senior, and one sophomore, and a senior TE.
On the defense, they have an experienced defensive line, starting all upperclassmen. The same goes for the linebackers, while both cornerbacks are sophomores, and the safeties include a sophomore and a junior. Their place kicker is also a senior.
Looking at the matchup between these two teams, it seems like the battle to watch will be in the trenches. BYU brings an experienced offensive line, and a defensive line that has a mix of talent and experience. While both sides of Arizona’s line are experienced, a number of their players are transfers and have not played many games together, if any. I expect BYU to dominate both sides of the line.
Overall, I expect BYU to be the better team. I expect Kalani Sitake to be the better coach, and I expect BYU’s players to play more as a team, and play hard for their coach in support of his recently announced contract extension. While Jaren Hall as a starting quarterback is relatively unproven, this will be a good game for him to figure things out. Don’t forget he has a big, talented, tested offensive line in front of him, two stud running backs behind him, and a bevy of NFL caliber TE’s and WR’s.
When the game is over, I expect BYU to have won handily. My score prediction is 45-10 BYU.