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Three Keys to a BYU Victory Over Baylor

The BYU football team, which suffered its first loss of the season last week at the hands of Boise State, will look to rebound against a very talented Baylor team on Saturday. Here are three keys to a BYU victory over Baylor.

1. Get off the field on third down

Following BYU’s breakout 2020 season, Baylor hired BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes as its offensive coordinator. As part of the move, Grimes brought with him BYU offensive line coach Eric Mateos. In his first season in Waco, Jeff Grimes has picked up where he left off at BYU. The Grimes-led Baylor Bears are averaging 38.3 points and 461.7 yards per game. Most impressively, in this author’s opinion, is the balance Baylor has established through the first six games of the season.

Baylor averages 233 passing yards and 227 rushing yards per game. BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki will have his hands full trying to stop Baylor’s offense on Saturday.

So far this season, Baylor’s ability to convert on third downs has been on of its few weaknesses on offense. In 70 tries, the Bears have converted 26 (37%) third downs - that ranks #91 in college football.  For context, BYU has converted 44% of its third downs this season.

If BYU is going to pull out a win in Waco, the Cougars need to get off the field on third downs. Whether that means dialing up pressures or dropping into coverage, it doesn’t matter. BYU’s defense needs to get off the field when it counts - something it has struggled to do at times this season.

If the Cougars can’t get Baylor off the field, the Bears will make them pay in the red zone. Baylor is tied with BYU as one of the best red zone offenses in the country. In 23 red zone attempts, Baylor has scored 16 touchdowns.

2. Learn from it, but forget everything that happened against Boise State

Lopini Katoa vs Boise State all navy

The mood in Lavell Edward’s stadium following weekend’s game against Boise State matched the weather – cloudy and gloomy. BYU was beat at its own game against the Broncos. It was Boise State, not BYU, that forced game-changing turnovers. It was Boise State, not BYU, that marched down the field late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. It was Boise State, not BYU, that made winning plays in critical moments.

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It was not the kind of performance BYU fans have grown accustomed to watching over the last two seasons.

BYU must take everything that happened against Boise State and forget about it.

BYU was not outmatched against Boise State. Statistically speaking, the game was an outlier.

The Cougars simply made uncharacteristic mistakes and those mistakes came at really bad times. Whether it was the first fumble that gave Boise State life, the second fumble that allowed the Broncos to their first lead, the third fumble that kept BYU from getting back into the game, or the offsides that negated a Boise State fumble, the ball just didn’t bounce the Cougars’ way.

While it can’t happen regularly, it happens. That is the game of football. You learn from it, but you don’t dwell on it.

The law of averages suggest BYU will regress to the mean, so the Cougars don’t need to overthink last week’s disappointing loss. The solution is clear. Clean up the costly mistakes and continue to do what got you to the top 10 in the first place. Take care of the football, take advantage of red zone opportunities, and force Baylor to beat you with high-level execution.

3. Take advantage of red zone opportunities

Given the offensive styles of both teams, possessions will be limited on Saturday. If BYU is going to beat Baylor, they need to score touchdowns in the red zone.

Going into the game against Boise State, BYU was one of the best red zone offenses in the country. Even after some empty red zone trips against Boise State, the Cougars are still a top-30 red zone offense.

Fortunately for BYU, Baylor’s red zone defense has been subpar so far this season. The Bears rank #94 in the red zone defense - they have allowed scores 89% of the time.