BYU Football Preview: Cougars prepare to face No. 18 Coastal Carolina on short notice
ESPN’s College GameDay matchup this weekend, and arguably the most exciting matchup in college football, between the No. 13 BYU Cougars and No. 18 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers will take place a little more than 48 hours after the game was announced.
The unbeaten programs, both sitting at 9-0, announced the last-minute Dec. 5 meeting on the morning of Dec. 3 after Liberty had to back out of the scheduled game in South Carolina due to COVID-19 issues.
One of the biggest stories leading up to the game is that of the BYU equipment truck. Rumors of the ranked matchup circulated Twitter following an announcement that Libery’s quarterback had tested positive for COVID-19. Before the game was officially announced, the BYU football equipment truck started its route east in an attempt to arrive at the game on time should it happen.
A thread of tweets by the BYU Equipment account providing updates of the truck’s status with the headline “Truck Tracker” went viral after a BYU fan requested to know where the truck was and if it would make it to South Carolina on time.
“We sent our truck out on the road, and if it had to turn around and come back, then we’ll turn it around,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said. “We were not going to go and not play because we don’t have our equipment.”
The truck arrived in South Carolina ahead of schedule for a game that has serious implications for both sides. While neither program has played a well-respected schedule, the matchup on the teal turf at Brooks Stadium in Conway, South Carolina will be the biggest for both the Cougars and the Chanticleers this season, and could provide an opportunity for either program to book a ticket into a New Years Six bowl game.
BYU and Coastal Carolina have had conflicted rankings among the nation’s two major committees. The AP Poll has consistently ranked BYU as a Top-10 team, currently No. 8 in the country, while its ranked Coastal Carolina at a respectable No. 14.
The College Football Playoff rankings, however, tell a different story. The CFP Committee ranked BYU outside the Top 10 at No. 13 and Coastal Carolina at No. 18. Committee chair Gary Barta explained why BYU did not break the Top 10.
“Great respect for BYU,” Barta said. “What is it that holds (BYU) back? If you compare the teams against whom they’ve competed to some other teams, it’s really the strength of schedule not being as strong as some of the teams that we’re ranking ahead of them.”
While Coastal Carolina is not a Power-Five program, they are ranked higher than any school in the Pac-12, a Power-Five conference.
The game will certainly be an exciting competition that will draw viewers from across the nation. Only one of the currently undefeated teams will leave with a perfect 10-0 record, however, along with a competitive edge for NY6 contention.
“We have said from the very beginning this year that we want to play games,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I know our guys are excited to have this opportunity to play on Saturday against a great opponent in nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina.”
BYU has proven time and time again this season that they have one of the most efficient programs in the country, but which position group will need to be at its best to keep BYU on the road to glory? The offensive line.
BYU’s offensive line is composed of some of the most intelligent athletes in college football. They create opportunities for BYU’s offense to make big plays almost every snap. Consequently, BYU’s run game has been dominant and quarterback Zach Wilson has had ample time to step up and make big plays, ultimately giving him a spot on the Heisman Trophy ballot.
BYU’s offensive line has created holes in defenses allowing running back Tyler Allgeier to run all over defenses this season. The junior has rushed for more than 850 yards – averaging 7.2 yards per carry – and 11 touchdowns. Allgeier will seek to join the likes of BYU greats Harvey Unga, Jamaal Williams and Luke Staley in the 1,000-yard club with a big game this weekend.
Wilson and the Cougars face a Coastal Carolina defense that has shown little weakness this season, and they only have two days to prepare. The Sun Belt leaders have demonstrated an impressive pass rush defense that has forced 11 interceptions through nine games. Junior cornerback D’Jordan Strong leads the team with five picks.
The Chanticleers’ dangerous defensive line, however, will be the biggest threat the BYU offensive line has faced this season. The Cougars have allowed only eight sacks through nine games, while the Chanticleer defense has recorded 31 sacks against their opponents so far. They will put more pressure on Wilson and the BYU backfield than any other opponent so far in 2020, forcing the Heisman candidate and his supporting cast to make plays each and every snap.
While BYU’s offense is rated higher than Coastal Carolina’s, the Chanticleers are not to be underestimated.
“This is a really well-coached team with an outstanding quarterback,” Sitake said. “We’re working hard to prepare to share the field with them.”
The Chanticleers’ offense, led by freshman quarterback Grayson McCall, has one of the most efficient third-down offenses in the country, converting over 54 percent of third-down attempts. The No. 18 Chanticleers know how to keep the ball moving downfield, so the BYU defense will need to continue its hot streak and keep the Chanticleers from finding their rhythm early on.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU starting at 3:30 p.m. MST, with ESPN College GameDay airing live from Brooks Stadium starting at 7 a.m. MST.