Game location: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT
Game time/channel: 12:00pm ET/ESPN
Spread: -24.5 (Oklahoma)
Most Recent Matchup: 2009 (BYU 14, Oklahoma 13)
Who could forget this game? Oklahoma entered that season opener as national title favorites, since Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford returned for another season after guiding the Sooners to the BCS championship game the year before. They came into this game ranked No. 3.
It was the first college football game ever played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Now, that is where the Big 12 Championship Game is held.
BYU came in ranked 20th with veteran QB Max Hall leading the way.
Bradford ended up getting hurt towards the end of the first half, which shifted the entire game, and season, for each team. Max Hall threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns, including a seven-yard score to a wide-open McKay Jacobson in the back of the end zone with 3:03 left in the fourth to put BYU ahead.
BYU slayed the beast and pulled off perhaps their biggest upset since their win over No. 1 Miami in 1990. They finished the season 11-2 and No. 12 in the final AP poll in a thrilling season.
Head coach: Brent Venables (2nd year)
2023 Season Thus Far
OU was anxious to put that dreadful 6-7 season in 2022 behind them. They have so far, emphatically.
They started out 7-0, which included a win over then-ranked No. 3 Texas in the Red River Rivalry. They rose to No. 6 in the polls before being upset by the Kansas Jayhawks. They then dropped a second straight game, this time to their rivals in Oklahoma State in what is assumed to be the final Bedlam game.
Last week, they had a “get right” game against a West Virginia team that previously thrashed BYU. Sooners QB Dillon Gabriel accounted for a whopping eight touchdowns as OU cruised to a 59-20 win.
They head into this matchup in Provo at 8-2 with their Big 12 Conference title game hopes still alive.
When BYU Has the Ball
What else is there to say about BYU’s offense? It’s mind-numbingly bad. The Cougars have scored more than 13 points just once since September. Whether it’s Kedon Slovis or Jake Retzlaff behind center, it really has not mattered. The offensive line has been putrid. The receivers aren’t getting open. The running backs have nowhere to go. The playcalling has been unimaginative and stale.
The offense ranks 126th in total offense and 106th in points.
Now, they have an Oklahoma defense than ranks 27th in The Athletic’s “Stop Rate” metric.
Danny Stutsman is one of the best linebackers in the Big 12, ranking second in the conference with 14 tackles for loss.
Sooners DB Billy Bowman has four interceptions, tied for second in the conference.
For BYU to pull off the miracle upset, the offense will need to truly have its best game of the entire season.
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
This isn’t BYU’s first duel with Sooners QB Dillon Gabriel. He played for UCF when BYU defeated them in the 2020 Boca Raton Bowl, 45-21. He threw for 217 yards and two scores that night.
Now, he is the commander of one of the best offenses in the country in Norman. He ranks eighth in all the FBS with 3,069 passing yards and ninth in passing touchdowns. He is clearly one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the FBS this season.
He isn’t short on weapons.
Drake Stoops has 692 receiving yards and nine scores this season. He currently ranks as the top receiver in the conference by Pro Football Focus.
Nic Anderson is a deep threat, with six receptions of at least 20 yards this season.
BYU’s defense needs to return to the form they had earlier in the season against Arkansas and Cincinnati. They have slipped back into the bad habits that plagued them last year. Their one hope of stopping this high powered passing attack is to generate pressure on Gabriel and force turnovers.
How BYU Can Win
Despite the long odds, there are certainly scenarios where BYU could pull the huge upset. First, this game is in Provo, where BYU has played their best ball this year. Oklahoma is not used to playing at a high altitude.
Second, BYU needs to take the ball away. Several times. The formula early on in the season was generating turnovers on defense. In wins over Arkansas, Cincinnati, and Texas Tech, BYU generated nine total turnovers.
In their last three games, which are all blowout losses, they have generated just two, and that is with zero in their last two games.
The formula is clear. The execution is the biggest factor. Easier said than done.
Prediction: Oklahoma 49, BYU 17