Game location: LaVell Edwards Stadium- Provo, UT
Game time/channel: 8:15pm MT/FS1
Spread: -20 (BYU)
Head coach: K.C. Keeler
Keeler enters his 10th season as head man of the Bearkats. He has been a revolutionary coach for them. First, he has led them to three Southland Conference championships and then a WAC championship in 2021.
He guided the team to an FCS national title in the spring of 2021 after the COVID delay. Between the 2020 and 2021, his team went 21-1.
He runs a fast-paced spread offensive attack. However, he hired a new offensive coordinator this offseason in Brad Cornelsen. He previously was the offensive coordinator for Virginia Tech.
The Bearkats are hoping his presence will provide a spark for the anemic offense they had last season.
2022 Season Recap
After two highly successful seasons in a row, the Bearkats took a slight step back in 2022, going 5-4. They opened up the season at one of the toughest road environments in all of college football, Texas A&M, where they lost 31-0.
After starting 0-2, they rattled off five straight wins. They then fell to Abilene Christian and Southern Utah to end the season. The offense sputtered at times, leading to low-scoring affairs where the defense was asked to do much of the heavy lifting.
Offensive player highlight: Keegan Shoemaker, QB
Shoemaker is a 6-foot-3 senior quarterback who enters his second season as the main starter. He completed 95 passes in 204 attempts, with 1,122 passing yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. He also contributed in the run game, with 254 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Defensive player highlight: Kavian Gaither, LB
The reigning WAC Defensive Player of the Year returns to the Bearkats for their inaugural season at the FBS level. Gaither led the team with 3.0 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 79 total tackles. He is everywhere on the field.
Him returning is a big boost for Sam Houston’s defense, which was the strongest part of their team last season.
How BYU Can Win
This is the perfect game for the defense to start with. The Bearkats really struggled on offense last year, averaging less than 19 points per game. They scored seven or less points in three games last season.
Jay Hill and the changes he has made to BYU’s defense should be on full display. They won’t be tested with an elite offense right out of the gate. This is a good game for the new-look defense to get their legs under them and feel out some kinks.
However, Hill also must be wary of the aforementioned new hire at offensive coordinator for Sam Houston.
On offense, BYU shouldn’t have trouble moving the ball. This offense should be one of the most explosive in the country. Kedon Slovis will make his BYU debut. The offensive line should impose their will on a defensive line largely composed of players who were playing FCS-level football last year.
Prediction: BYU 45, Sam Houston 14