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BYU vs South Florida: Game Preview

The BYU Cougars take on the South Florida Bulls this weekend. We preview the game and look into how either team could come out victorious in week one.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 BYU at USF Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

BYU football kicks off the 2022 season as the Cougars travel to Raymond James Stadium to face the South Florida Bulls.

The Cougars are 1-1 all-time against the Bulls.

Their first meeting came during the 2019 season as BYU fell 27-23 in Tampa. Jaren Hall made his first career start in the game throwing for 148 yards and a touchdown while adding 83 yards and an additional score on the ground. Unfortunately, Hall could not finish the game due to a concussion.

Last season, BYU defeated South Florida 35-27 in Provo. BYU jumped to an early lead and held off a USF comeback in the second half. Baylor Romney threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns in the game. USF was led by QB Timmy McClain who threw for 186 yards while adding 55 yards on the ground, as well as RB Jaren Mangham who ran for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

BYU announced on Monday the team will wear all-white jerseys with navy trim, which is the same jersey combination BYU wore against Washington State last season, as well as South Florida in 2019.

What could be considered a revenge game for Jaren Hall may be more challenging than it seems. BYU is currently a 12-point favorite for Saturday’s game, but there is reason to think the Bulls could keep it closer.

Why USF Will Win

A New QB at the Helm

BYU will face a new quarterback in Tampa, but one they are familiar with. Gerry Bohanon, a grad transfer from Baylor, beat out Timmy McClain for the starting job. Bohanon lost the job at Baylor to Blake Shapen earlier this year.

Last season, Bohanon led Baylor to a 38-24 victory over BYU in Waco. He threw for 231 yards and a touchdown in the game. During the 2021 season, Bohanon threw for 2,200 yards and 18 touchdowns and had a passing efficiency rating of 146.6. Bohanon is not the running threat that McClain displayed last season, but should be a significant upgrade in the passing game for the Bulls.

Returning Production and Transfers

South Florida is third in the country in returning production at 85%. Featured among those returning offensively are running back Jaren Mangham and wide receiver Xavier Weaver. Mangham ran for 671 yards and 15 touchdowns and Weaver caught 41 passes for 715 yards and two scores. On defense, linebackers Tony Grier Jr. and Dwayne Boyles combined for 149 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and four interceptions.

According to 247Sports, South Florida had the 32nd ranked transfers for 2022. The Bulls received 15 transfers this cycle, including starting quarterback Gerry Bohanon. Other transfers expected to contribute this season are RB Michel Dukes, WR Ajou Ajou, DL Rashad Cheney, LB DJ Gordon IV, and S Aamaris Brown.

BYU’s Record Playing In Florida

Playing in the eastern time zone has always been a challenge for BYU, but it’s particularly been difficult in the state of Florida. BYU has a record of 1-8 all-time in the sunshine state.

BYU’s first win in Florida came during the 2020 season when the Cougars defeated the UCF Knights in the Boca Raton Bowl. South Florida already beat BYU in Tampa in 2019. It’s a new season with new teams, but BYU’s record in Florida is still something to keep in mind.

Why BYU Will Win

BYU’s OL Will Dominate

BYU will have the best offensive line unit that South Florida will face all season. The line should dominate in the run game and keep a clean pocket for Jaren Hall in the passing game.

On the left side, BYU will be headlined by two preseason All-Americans in Blake Freeland and Clark Barrington. The depth chart on the line can run ten players deep that are full of experience. South Florida has a weak defensive line unit that should make it easy for BYU to win the battle in the trenches.

South Florida’s Poor Defense

Last year, South Florida had one of the worst defenses in college football. Outside of linebackers Tony Grier Jr. and Dwayne Boyles, the production on defense was lacking in 2021, and won’t be an easy fix in 2022.

Last season, the Bulls were 124th in yards per game allowed at 472.2. This included 206.8 rushing yards allowed and 265.4 passing yards allowed. They also allowed a 117th ranked 34.7 points allowed per game. Last season, BYU totaled 443 yards of offense and 35 points against the Bulls.

Jaren Hall At QB

NCAA Football: Virginia at Brigham Young Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Jaren Hall’s first career start came in a loss to South Florida in 2019. During that game, Hall suffered a concussion and was not able to complete the game. Due to injury, he was not able to play in their meeting last season.

Hall will get a second chance to beat the Bulls on the road. Last season, in 10 starts Hall threw for 2,583 yards and 20 touchdowns with a passer efficiency rating of 156.1. He is also a threat with his legs adding 307 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. Hall will be one of the best quarterbacks the Bulls will face all season. With BYU’s weapons at his disposal, it should be easy for him to find success in this game.

Saturday’s game will kick off at 4:00 ET, 2:00 MT. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.