Week 5 Preview: BYU Cougars
By: Ryan Roberts
The Bearcats will play their first Big 12 road game on Friday night when they travel west to take on the 3-1 BYU Cougars inside of LaVell Edwards Stadium in front of a sold out crowd. (Capacity: 63,470)
What you need to know:
BYU defeated Sam Houston, Southern Utah, and Arkansas to open the season but suffered their first loss last week at Kansas, 38-27. The Cougars are led by QB Kedon Slovis (257.3 yards per game). He has tossed eight TDs and three INTs. He passed for 357 vs. the Jayhawks with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
BYU is one of eight teams perfect in the red zone, and has 12 touchdowns on 15 attempts.
Cincinnati is averaging 214.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks 14th in the country and third in the Big 12.The Bearcats are also averaging 488.0 total yards, which is also No. 14 nationally and No. 4 in the Big 12. Cincinnati is seventh in the country in time of possession and first in the Big 12 (33:48).
Cincinnati comes in averaging 30.8 ppg, while BYU averages 30 ppg.
Defensively, both teams rank 84th nationally giving up 21.25 points per game.
BYU leads the series between the two with wins over UC in 2015 (38-24) and 2016 (20-3).
When BYU is on offense:
The receiving trio of Chase Roberts (89 yards, five catches) Darius Lassiter (84 yards, career-high eight catches) and Isaac Rex (76 yards, career-high seven catches) were Slovis' favorite targets in the Kansas loss. Lassiter and running back LJ Martin both recorded touchdown receptions.
Those three receivers have combined for 52 catches and 687 yards through the first 4 games. Twelve different players have caught at least one pass in a game this season for BYU, with nine of them having multiple receptions in a game. This will be another match up where the Bearcats secondary will be tested by multiple guys.
BYU struggles to run the ball, averaging just 61 yards per game. That total ranks 256th in the country. Slovis has completed 85 of 141 passing attempts for 1,017 yards. With BYU wanting to be a pass first offense, defensive coordinator Bryan Brown will have to come up with different pressures and schemes to put pressure on Slovis.
Slovis was held to a season low 158 yards with two interceptions as the starting quarterback for Pitt last year against Bryan Brown's Louisville defense.
The defensive line should have an advantage up front as Slovis has been sacked 6 times. Brown's defense currently ranks 4th nationally with 12 sacks.
BYU also struggles on 3rd down, converting on just 33.3 % of their attempts through 3 games.
When BYU is on defense:
Linebacker Ben Bywater led the defense in the Kansas loss with a season high 10 tackles, including nine solo stops and one sack. AJ Vongphachanh added seven tackles (five solo) while Tanner Wall added six.
Defensive end Tyler Batty has 12 career sacks and leads BYU this season with 2.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 3 QB hurries, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 forced fumble.
The Cougars strength on defense is their front four of Batty, Jackson Cravens, Blake Mangelson, and John Nelson. The Cougars give up an average of 130 yards per game on the ground, which is good for 67th nationally.
Cornerback Jakob Robinson leads the secondary and has two interceptions, while Eddie Heckard has one interception from the other cornerback position.
BYU's defense is currently dealing with injuries in their back 7, so it will be interesting to see what their personnel ends up looking like come Friday night at 10:15. BYU could end up relying on second string options at both safety positions, which could give UC more big play opportunities that were missed in the loss to Oklahoma.
Third down was a struggle for the Bearcats against Oklahoma (3 of 15) and BYU has limited opponents to a 31.4 % conversion rate.
While BYU is 3 of 4 on field goal attempts this season, Friday's match up will feature two of the best punters in the country. BYU's Ryan Rehkow is the active career leader in punt average (47.1) and ranks third nationally in 2023 with an average of 48.5.
How to Watch/Listen:
Clay Matvick (PxP), Aaron Murray (Analyst), Lauren Sisler (Sideline)
Radio: 102.7 WEBN Bearcats Sports Network
Dan Hoard (PxP), Jim Kelly Jr. (Analyst), Anthony Mazzini (Sideline), Mo Egger (Host/Engineer)
UC comes in as a 1.5 point favorite. They are battle tested on the road, having already played at Pitt, but elevation could be an issue. Scott Satterfield said the following regarding the altitude:
"(The altitude) is something that we can't control, can't worry about, our guys just have to go out and prepare," Satterfield said. "I think the big thing we've talked about this week is getting rest. Really just getting your mind and body rested well this week as much as we can prior to going out there to help us on that Friday night."
Cincinnati should have the better defense in this match up and the secondary has limited opposing quarterbacks to a 53% completion rate. That is good for 4th nationally. Deshawn Pace, who was suspended last week against Oklahoma, will return this week and give Bryan Brown another option in his pressure packages. Ken Willis played well last week with Pace out and Sammy Anderson still in concussion protocol.
BYU struggled to contain the two headed rushing attack of Devin Neal (17 rush, 91 yards) and Jaylen Daniel (9 rush, 54 yds) in the loss to Kansas. With Cincinnati having three different guys that have gone over 100 yards rushing in a game this season, there should be opportunities for Corey Kiner, Ryan Montgomery, and Emory Jones to get things going on the ground.
At the end of the day, how well the Cincinnati offense executes in the red zone will determine the outcome. They have gone 15 possessions without a touchdown. That streak must end early if Cincinnati is going to pick up their first conference win and head in to the bye week on a high note.
Cincinnati 34 BYU 28
Scott Satterfield, Daniel Grzesiak Preview BYU:
Video Credit: Cincinnati Athletics Department