NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET
|McLane Stadium, Waco, TX|
Our Pick: BAYL Baylor at 10.5 (-108). Get a free bet worth $50 and a $1000 deposit match at DraftKings today!
With BYU set to join the Big 12 in 2023, the Cougars could very well develop a rivalry with the Baylor Bears in the years to come. As far as the 2021 college football season is concerned, this is just another game between non-conference opponents. But depending on how Saturday’s game goes between the two, fans could see the groundwork getting laid for a future rivalry.
Regardless of what the future holds for both teams, Saturday’s game is projected to be a relatively close one. The Bears may be favored, but after suffering a mistake-filled loss to Boise State last week, the Cougars will be gunning for redemption. That does not mean BYU will find it, of course. But they might…
After losing Zach Wilson and several other members of last year’s stellar offense, expectations were not super-high for BYU entering the season. But after starting the 2021 college football season with a win over Arizona and then two more over ranked teams, there appeared to be sufficient reason for optimism. Jaren Hall is no Zach Wilson, but he was playing well.
With the help of a decent run game, the offense was producing enough to win games. Defensively, they were playing well enough to keep the offense from getting in a hole or having to do too much. That became even more evident as they won their next two.
Entering last week’s game against a mediocre Boise State team, the No. 10-ranked Cougars were expected to win. They had not lost at home since 2019 or to a non-Power Five team since 2018. Had they played like they had the previous five weeks, BYU probably would have won. But they did something against the Broncos that they had not done all season— they made a lot of mistakes.
Entering the game, they had only committed two turnovers and had done a great job limiting penalties. But then the Broncos forced four BYU turnovers, and the Cougars committed nine penalties for 75 yards. Two of those turnovers set up both of Boise State’s touchdowns. Without getting any turnovers from their own defense, those turnovers led directly to the team’s first loss.
BYU had been winning games because it was playing efficient, relatively mistake-free football. But even if they can do so against Baylor, that may not be enough. The Bears will be the most formidable team (on paper) the Cougars have faced all season. Efficient, mistake-free may not be enough this time.
After a dreadful 2020 season, expectations were low for the Baylor Bears heading in 2021 college football season. But there was hope with a lot of experience coming back on both sides of the ball (especially defense). With a typical offseason, if the returning starters improve and the new ones step up quickly, maybe 2021 could be a good year.
So far—it is.
Without a proper offseason to implement the offense, the Bears struggled on that side of the ball in 2020. But through six games this season, the offense is playing well. Under the guidance of new quarterback Gerry Bohanon, the offense generates 461.3 yards a game (25th in the nation) and 38.3 points (17th). The offense is as balanced as they come, with 227.5 a game on the ground and 233.8 through the air.
The Bears are not bad on the defensive side of the ball, either. They have limited teams to just 320.7 yards a game (145.7 rushing, 175 passing) and 17.8 points (21st). But are they really that good, or do the stats paint a prettier picture than the reality? After all, their first three opponents were pretty soft (Texas State, Texas Southern, and Kansas).
That may be hard to answer with any certainty right now. Along with the first three games, West Virginia is struggling this year, and they lost to Oklahoma State. However, they did beat a ranked Iowa State team despite being outgained 479-282. While there is not enough evidence to derive a hypothesis from, there is reason to believe the Bears are decent, if not as good as they look on paper.
But will they execute to the fullest and win against a beatable BYU team? We’ll find out Saturday afternoon.
Sports Betting Recommendation
BYU appears to be a decent team, but it is hard to make a case for them being better than Baylor. The Cougars count too much on not making mistakes to win. They have been able to play relatively mistake-free for most of the season. But the Bears are the most complete team they have faced all season. Expect the Cougars to play well in this one, but not well enough.
But take Baylor to win via the moneyline and against the spread. As for the total, it is not hard to see Baylor matching its season average (38.3 points/game. BYU should score enough to cover the over, but it is hard to have confidence that they will.
Take the under.