Game location: Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX
Game time/channel: 3:30pm ET/ABC
Spread: -19 (Texas)
Most Recent Matchup: 2014
If you are a BYU fan, you know exactly where you were when you saw or heard the Taysom Hill hurdle that ended Texas football as we knew it. The last time these two teams met was on the very field they will enter this Saturday afternoon. It was a 41-7 drubbing by BYU.
For an entire year, Texas circled it on the calendar, seeking revenge from getting embarrassed the year before in Provo by Taysom and company. Not only did they fail to get revenge, it was a much worse defeat for the Longhorns. Hill ran for three touchdowns and it was basically over midway through the third quarter.
Not many current players on either side were even in high school when this happened. Revenge might not be the right word anymore. But trust us, Texas fans are ready. Plus, BYU is 4-1 in the series all-time.
TAYSOM HILL QB1— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 20, 2020
2014: BYU beats Texas 41-7 in Austin
Head coach: Steve Sarkisian (third year)
If the Taysom Hill revenge factor isn’t intriguing enough for you, how about a BYU alum and former all-time great Cougar quarterback being the head coach of the Longhorns? He won the 1996 Sammy Baugh Trophy as the nation’s top passer, leading BYU to a 14-1 record and win over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. He was the signal caller for the most successful BYU football season besides their 1984 National Championship.
2023 Season Thus Far
Texas began the season as the heavy favorite to win the Big 12 Conference and contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff. As we approach the weekend before Halloween, those are both still a reality.
The Longhorns have arguably the best win of any team in the FBS at the moment. They went into Tuscaloosa and beat Alabama by 10 on their own field. That win is aging well, as Alabama has not lost since and currently sits at No. 9 in the AP Top 25.
Texas rolled on, winning their next three games by 20-plus points each. Then they squared off in the Red River Shootout for the ages, against Oklahoma. The Sooners bested Texas in the final seconds, handing them their lone loss to this point.
The next time Texas took the field was last week at Houston. They allowed Houston to come back from down 21-0 to tie the game. Houston even had chances to take the lead late. Surely, the Longhorns are anxious to put that near-disaster behind them.
When BYU Has the Ball
Texas has one of the best defenses in the country. Out of 133 FBS teams, they are 18th in points per game allowed and 37th in total defense. On third downs, they rank eighth in the country in not allowing conversions.
Meanwhile, BYU is atrocious on third downs on offense, at 124th. The positive is the run game showed signs of life against a decent Texas Tech defense. They averaged 5.0 yards per carry with 150 yards on the ground. The return of Aidan Robbins coupled with LJ Martin might steady the ship in the run game.
Kedon Slovis needs to be more consistent. Out of five throws, one looks like he could be an NFL draft pick, one looks like an average solid college starter, and three leave you scratching your head. Among qualified passers, Slovis is 10th in the Big 12 in completion percentage.
Isaac Rex needs to get more involved. He has just nine total targets in his last three games combined, with less than 60 yards.
It’s hard to imagine BYU upsetting Texas without Rex making an impact.
BYU’s offensive line is going to have their toughest test of the entire season. Texas has two defensive linemen that will both likely make an NFL team happy. T’Vondre Sweat is currently the highest graded defensive lineman in the country per Pro Football Focus. Byron Murphy II was Preseason First Team All-Big 12.
When Texas Has the Ball
The big story of the week is that Texas will be without star quarterback Quinn Ewers. Maalik Murphy will get the nod after filling in for Ewers following the injury.
BYU’s defense is tied for the fourth-most takeaways in the country. While luck plays a factor, that is something Jay Hill instilled into this defense that was severely lacking before- the aggression and attacking mentality.
That is a perfect way to fluster a backup quarterback.
Granted, Murphy is not your average backup. He is a former four-star recruit that was the ninth-best quarterback in the 2022 recruiting class. He is more of a running threat than Ewers was. BYU tends to struggle against running quarterbacks.
Not to mention, running back Jonathon Brooks ranks seventh in FBS in rushing yards, with 825. This will mark the third straight week where BYU faces a top 10 running back. BYU ranks 86th in yards per carry allowed.
Pro Football Focus also ranks Texas as the seventh-best pass blocking team in the FBS. Getting pressure will be tough, but critical. Murphy has a bevvy of weapons in the passing attack, with NFL prospect Xavier Worthy leading the way.
Turnovers and keeping Texas behind the chains is absolutely paramount to BYU’s chances to win.
How BYU Can Win
Let’s be really clear about this- BYU has a chance to beat Texas. There is a greater than zero percent chance to win this game. BYU won their last game where they were at least 16 point underdogs, at No. 6 Wisconsin in 2018. Kalani Sitake has shown the ability to get the Cougars ready for big games.
While not impossible, the odds are certainly stacked against the Cougars. The offense wavers from “good enough” to “completely inept” far too often. The defense, while improved, is still very vulnerable in spots.
BYU’s chances truly hinge on turnovers. That has been the name of the game this entire season. That is the single biggest factor why BYU is 5-2 despite, frankly, a poor offense. The offense cannot give Texas extra possessions and the defense needs to give this sputtering Cougar offense some short fields.
So yes, luck will certainly need to be on BYU’s side for a big upset win. This Texas team is legit. It’s not smoke-and-mirrors like the Longhorns teams we are accustomed to watching in the Post Taysom Hurdle Era (PTHE).
Prediction: Texas 34, BYU 20