Weekly predictions: If BYU were to upset the Broncos (not likely), here’s what it’ll take

BYU takes on a streaking Boise State and Utah will host a struggling Arizona. The only similarity this weekend will be the weather forecast, which calls for rain.

The Utes are trying to keep the course charted for a piece of the Pac-12 South title by piling up wins and hoping UCLA stumbles.

The 4-5 Cougars will try to break a four-game losing skid in Boise, a place they’ve been 1-5 over the years. While the Cougars have one of the worst defenses in the country, the Broncos have chiseled out a 6-2 record and are the jewel of the Mountain West Conference.

BYU vs. Boise State

BYU is 2-0 against Mountain West teams after beating Utah State and Wyoming, their most recent taste of success. The Cougars go to Boise with a busload of injured players, reminiscent of the way the 2021 season ended in a bowl loss to Alabama Birmingham without key players, including QB Jaren Hall.

Four-game skids are tough. They sow doubt, drown confidence and challenge the will of players and coaches who come under scrutiny and criticism. BYU joins Texas A&M of the SEC in this club after the Aggies signed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country last February. During the past five years, A&M has averaged the No. 5 signing classes, according to 247 sports.  

BYU is coming off a No. 55 recruiting class after having signing classes ranked 72, 78, 81 and 78. The Cougars, who won 21 of 24 games before this season, are an overachieving-type program. Texas A&M appears to be just the opposite.  

Boise State is also an overachieving program and when the Broncos lost to UTEP in the fourth game of the season with a 2-2 record, head coach Andy Avalos fired the offensive coordinator Tim Plough, replacing him with former college and NFL coach Dirk Koetter, who was working as an analyst with BSU at the time. The Broncos have not lost a game since.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake avoided firing anyone when BYU’s woes crept up but did shuffle around the coaching staff assignments on defense, assuming a bigger role himself with play calls and the linebackers two weeks ago.

If BYU is to beat BSU the defense will need to get at least three turnovers and have Aaron Roderick’s offense control time of possession and score in the 30s.

Arizona vs. Utah

Kyle Whittingham has the luxury of getting a desert team in Rice-Eccles Stadium on a bad-weather day and Arizona is not capable of stopping Utah’s momentum.

It was impressive that the Utes defeated Washington State on the road without starting quarterback Cam Rising and other key players. That showed a lot of focus, determination and ability to simply take care of business.

It shouldn’t matter if Rising is back or not come Saturday. The Utes can even miss tight end Dalton Kincaid and leave Tavion Thomas out of the lineup. Bryson Barnes has shown the ability to lead the Utes as QB.

Whittingham has proved capable of reloading with the next man up against lower-tier competition in the league and this will be the story come Saturday.

As for freshman running back Jaylon Glover, Whittingham has his back. “He’s a guy that is capable. He is a guy that can carry the football 20-plus times a game. He’s only going to get better as he continues to marinate in the program. He’s a guy that we have a lot of faith in.” 

And, no, I don’t think Whittingham needs to explain his lineup minutes before a kickoff to TV folks. Let the talking heads show up at the stadium and do their homework.

Stat talk

Boise State ranks No. 1 in the country in passing yards allowed (133.6), 13th in rushing defense (98.6), No. 12 in scoring defense (17.4), and No. 2 in total defense (232.2). According to Jeff Sagarin’s rankings in USA Today, Boise State’s strength of schedule is 116th, while Utah’s is 16th and BYU’s 35th.

This week’s picks

Arkansas 38, Liberty 28

TCU 41, Texas Tech 31

Baylor 37, Oklahoma 28

Tennessee 24, Georgia 21

Oregon 42, Colorado 21

Oklahoma State 28, Kansas 10

Stanford 28, Washington State 24

Kansas State 38, Texas 34

UCLA 38, Arizona State 14

USC 42, California 17

Utah 34, Arizona 10

Boise State 34, BYU 27

Last week, 9-3; overall, 78-36 (.680)

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