Pick Six Previews: How BYU Will Start Its 2022 Campaign Strong

BYU quarterback Garen Hall answers interview questions during BYU Football Media Day at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Thursday, June 17, 2021 (Christine Murphy, Deseret News)

Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes

PROVO – BYU enters the 2022 season with its first pre-season rating by the Associated Press for the top 25 rankings since 2009.

They came in at number 25 in an AP poll, yet BYU ranked all the way at number 15 nationally in my annual pre-season Pick Six Previews.

The 2020 Cougars started 9-0, rose to No. 8, but drew criticism for not playing a single Power Five competitor due to conference scheduling restrictions only. They quickly proved these doubters wrong in 2021 by sweeping the Pac-12 (5-0), defeating former Virginia BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, and ultimately cutting their losing streak against Utah.

Could the 2022 squad be stronger? I say yes. The full starting formation is back almost the same and BYU is No. 1 nationally in the return production gauge which is a clear indicator of progress throughout the year.

The first test is a road trip to Tampa to face South Florida at AAC in a rematch to win last year’s 35-27 BYU.

motor grader

(Adjusted opponent’s statistical dominance via Pick Six Previews)

2021 season: BYU 58.1 (24) | USF 22.4 (Force Equivalent 5: 64th of 66)

2022 season: Unavailable

USF was one of the worst teams in America last year. They went 2-10, and seven of those losses were double digits. Against their strong five rivals, the USF was outperformed by a combined score of 87 to 20. The Game Grader formula had a USF rating down a season 22.4, which would put a 64 of 66 in the Power Five — that’s just ahead of Kansas and Vanderbilt.

On the other hand, BYU climbed to fifth in the Game Grader of 2020 and then showed its strength to stay with the 25th place again in 2021. Instead of blasting like USF, BYU went 6-1 against the Power Five.

USF with ball

The USF offensive was cast for only six touchdowns in the entire 2021 season. This is one of those stats I had to check again for a typo, but yes, six out of twelve full games. Even the crimes of the armed forces’ three options led to a further decline. Even worse, the USF quarterbacks have combined to throw twice as many interceptions (12). Their sprint attack was relatively stronger, averaging 3.9 yards per carry, but even that was still below the national average (87 of 130 FBS).

Like BYU, USF is returning the bulk of its starting lineup, including a duo from running appearances compiled for 1,151 yards in 2021: Jaren Mangham and Kelley Joiner. The offensive line is packed with experience and has headlines at Donovan Jennings and Demetris Harris.

But the biggest storyline is in the middle as Jerry Bohannon moved from Baylor after the Spring Ball. Bohanon led Baylor to a surprise breakout season, but he lost in the eleventh game and missed the Big 12 title match. That moment of championship provided the platform for Blake Shapen’s reserve champion to shine—he eventually beat Bohanon this spring.

With Bohanon, USF gets a professional Power Five quarterback who was an efficient passer and participated in the running game by enduring 7-10 campaigns per game (nine touchdowns in 2021).

Yes, USF offenses are experienced, as well as their counterparts. BYU has brought back 15 of its top 16 players, and they welcome back stellar linebackers Payton Wilgar and Keenan Pili, who both missed out on time later in the season. With the Wilgar combo, Pili in the lineup, BYU is rated 32nd defense (out of 66) in the Power Five; But with injuries piling, they’ve fallen to 58th in their last seven games.

A common misconception is that BYU simply drops eight defenders per game coverage. They might have leaned on that a bit in 2020 when they had a mountain-sized Jerez Tonga in nose tackle, but nowadays it’s a very complicated scheme. Feature: BYU

BYU with ball

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall had a big boot to fill when Zach Wilson was named second overall in the NFL Draft, but he stunned Utah on his debut and turned in the top 25 of the season to pass as a debut rookie. Hall is now getting his sophomore starter bonus and has one of the best offensive lines in the country protecting him. The BYU line was one of only eight nationally placed in the top 25 in both Run Push and Pass Protection metrics. All five offensive linemen return, along with the most deep-set players, and Clark Barrington was awarded the All-America 4th Team left-hander with honors by Pick Six Previews.

I expect trenches to be the deciding factor in this game, with a huge advantage for the BYU offensive line against the USF’s defensive front. Last season, the NFL ranked one of the worst defenses in America and ranks fifth nationally in the face race. In the rush, they eventually died out with only nine bags produced all season. They bring back a lot of experience, but then again, BYU does; And with last season as an indicator, that’s a huge advantage for BYU. Look for Cougars to create a consistent run game and protect the Hall long enough for minor malfunctions.

anticipate the game

All reviews and metrics point to BYU’s victory. Brigham Young University is ranked #15 nationally, only behind Notre Dame when considering teams that are not in the Power Five. USF is expected to be ninth in 11 teams, other than AQ AAC. BYU will start the season off right with a solid victory on the road.

No. 25 BYU (-11.5) 37 | USF 20

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Brett Ciancia is the owner of Pick Six Previews, a college football preview magazine that has been rated the “most accurate season preview” since 2012 (via Stassen). Ciancia was named Heisman Trophy voter in 2019 and invited to the FWAA All-America Team Selection Committee in 2020.

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