PROVO, Utah – BYU/Utah Tech, it’s a game you never thought you’d see in your wildest dreams. But in many ways, it’s the perfect ending to home games at LaVell Edwards Stadium in BYU’s independence era.
— Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper) November 19, 2022
November home games for BYU have been out of sight and out of mind on the national college football landscape since 2011. Today is the latest example of this.
But this game is significant for BYU for several reasons. For starters, it’s Seniors’ Day. A whopping 37 BYU players will be honored with a senior blanket. Then it’s also a game that BYU needs to qualify for the Bowl. College football teams need at least six wins to qualify for a bowl game. BYU comes into the tilt Saturday with Utah Tech 5-5.
BYU vs. Utah Tech
Kick-off: 1:30 p.m. (MT)
Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended Pregame starts at 10am)
Now it’s time for the 3-2-1 match preview for today’s matchup between BYU and Utah Tech.
Three thoughts on game day
1. Big 12 bye weeks bring normalcy to BYU football schedules
BYU is the only college football team in America to have gone 10 consecutive weeks without a bye. After an upset win over Boise State, the win’s momentum turned to a bye in November.
It’s the reality of playing an independent schedule. But the independent days are almost numbered, as next year BYU will receive a Power Five schedule for the first time as a member of the Big 12 conference.
With Big 12 membership, BYU will have byes in late September or October, basically what everyone else in the sport does.
Why is this important today? BYU needs to come out of a bye week to play Utah Tech. Typically bye weeks are used to make corrections and prepare for a big opponent. How will BYU dial in today for tonight’s game?
2. If that’s it for Jaren Hall & Puka Nacua it was a great ride
BYU stars Jaren Hall and Puka Nacua are honored today as part of the 37-player Senior Day roster. They may return to BYU for an additional year due to the COVID year. Unless they have a boatload of NIL money waiting for them next season, it’s hard to imagine turning down the NFL. Both players are draft picks, so why not go?
— Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper) November 18, 2022
Hall and Nacua are two of the greatest positions in BYU football history. Nacua might be the best receiver to come through BYU, and Hall is one of the top 10 signal callers.
If this is the last senior day with them in BYU blue, enjoy them Cougar fans because they’re a dynamic duo with the potential for greater success in the NFL.
3. I’m intrigued by Utah Tech’s offense
Before I get into that, I want it to be clear; I believe BYU will win this game. But this is the most fascinating game BYU has played against an FCS team since they hosted Northern Iowa in 2008. The Trailblazers have offensive firepower in the ability positions, and their offensive coordinator has Power Five experience.
Utah Tech’s “Spread-N-Shred” offensive is the brainchild of Craig Stutzman. Stutzman was Washington State’s offensive coordinator last year. He was released from the Palouse because of his vaccination status, not his coaching. Stutzman has already cited an offense that has beaten BYU in the past. That was Hawaii 2019 at the Hawaii Bowl.
Wide receiver Joey Hobert is a Power Five level talent who had an offer from BYU after high school. He is the best receiver in the FCS ranks this year. Don’t be surprised when Utah Tech comes up with numbers in defense of BYU, which is still flawed despite the impressive breakthrough against Boise State.
Two tech questions between BYU and Utah
1. Will we see Jacob Conover?
If Jaren Hall moves on, who’s the next quarterback for BYU in the Big 12’s freshman year? In a perfect world, the keys are thrown to Jacob Conover, who is a third year in the program.
BYU should be able to back out of Utah Tech early in the third quarter, opening the door for Conover to play. If he does go in, keep ventilating and let him operate. Give him a chance to get a movie out and audition early to become the next QB1 at BYU.
2. Which running back gets the early workload?
According to BYU running backs coach Harvey Unga, Chris Brooks is expected to be available against the Trailblazers today. The same goes for Miles Davis. So outside of Jackson McChesney, BYU should have their entire stable of running backs available. Hinckley Ropati was a star in the reception game for BYU against Boise State, but Lopini Katoa has been a reliable rusher since Brooks left the Liberty game.
I’d bet Katoa is still the number one ball carrier with Brooks as number two.
A score prediction for BYU vs. Utah Tech
I expect BYU’s offense to put up some big numbers in this game. But don’t be surprised if Utah Tech gets its fair share of points. BYU cruises with the second and third team players in the second half to wrap up the final home game of the Independence era.
BYU 59, UtahTech 28
Mitch Harper is a BYU insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE TO) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday 12pm-3pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch and his coverage of BYU/Utah Tech on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.