The Daily Herald’s BYU football experts Jared Lloyd and Darnell Dickson weigh in on five of the biggest questions facing the Cougars this week:
1. Importance of big win
1. Does BYU have to win big over Western Kentucky on Saturday to stay in the national college football discussion?
LLOYD: I’m going to start by defining what I think of when I hear the term “win big,” which to me means winning by 21 points or more. The answer to the question under that definition then would be no, because what really matters is winning. I think the Cougars are a long shot to make it to the College Football Playoff no matter what they do but they are already in great position to make it to a New Year’s Six bowl game. A loss, especially to a 2-4 opponent like the Hilltoppers, would definitely eliminate BYU (as it should) from such lofty goals. The only scenario I can see where a win would truly be that damaging would be some sort of overtime struggle where the Cougars look really, really bad.
DICKSON: Absolutely. It’s one of those unwritten rules of college football and the Cougars need to dominate Western Kentucky to retain their current status. College football is much more about how things look than how they really are. It’s dumb, but it’s all part of the scene. BYU isn’t judged the same way a Power 5 program is judged. The Cougars are in the national college football conversation not just because they are 6-0. They are in the national college football conversation because of the margin of victory against five of those opponents. That needs to continue for BYU to continue its climb to the Top 10. I don’t think a close win at Boise State would hurt the Cougars but all of the other teams in their schedule? Gotta bring the pain. Every time.
2. Best walk-on
2. Who is the best walk-on playing for the Cougar football team this fall?
DICKSON: BYU’s walk-on program is thriving and one of the reasons why the Cougars are 6-0 right now. One guy that gets overlooked as a former walk-on is Tyler Allgeier, who leads BYU in rushing with 492 yards. He came to Provo as a walk-on linebacker despite having rushed for nearly 2,500 yards as a senior in high school. You read that right. Allgeier was a good athlete but the Cougars needed to train him up at a new position. Then he was needed on offense and has been terrific. With all the movement in the RB room this summer and fall, Allgeier has been consistently awesome.
LLOYD: This might be one of the toughest questions we’ve ever had because you could make a case for a lot of different walk-ons, which I think is great. I think guys like Masen Wake and Zac Dawe are certainly in the conversation but how can you choose anyone but Dax Milne? This kid has exploded to become an old-school BYU receiver: underestimated and overlooked but absolutely reliable. He is making big-time plays every week and that’s a testament to his own work ethic and the ability of the Cougar coaching staff to get a lot out of their guys.
3. More playing time for Wilson
3. Zach Wilson played just over a half in last week’s blowout of Texas State. Should Kalani Sitake at least play Wilson through three quarters, regardless of the score?
LLOYD: No — and not just no but heck no. You want to know why I feel that strongly? Three words: Taysom Hill, 2012. I still remember seeing Hill running the ball against Utah State when the outcome was decided and getting lost for the season to a knee injury. The only reason I see to keep guys in if the team is up big is if coaches feel like they need to work on something specific in game situations and I just don’t see Wilson needing to do that right now. Stats aren’t a good enough reason in my opinion. The risk of injury is too great for no real benefit.
DICKSON: It’s a tough call for Kalani Sitake, isn’t it? Play your star player as much as you can to stay in the Heisman conversation or play it safe to keep him healthy? I see where Jared is coming from, but I think there are several factors that point to keeping Wilson in the game for longer than a half in a blowout. One is that the offensive line is doing a terrific job of keeping him upright. He hasn’t taken a lot of hits, unlike the bulldozing (at times) Taysom Hill. Also, 2020 is shaping up to be a very special year in BYU football. Shouldn’t you take full advantage of that? If Wilson continues to put up video-game numbers, he could leave for the NFL Draft.
4. More games for the Cougars
4. Should BYU add more regular-season games to its football schedule, or is 10 enough?
DICKSON: More, more, more. On Wednesday the Wisconsin-Nebraska game for Saturday was cancelled because 12 Badger coaches and players were positive for coronavirus. It won’t be the last P5 game to be cancelled. The Cougars need to stay agile and AD Tom Holmoe needs to stay on the phone for any and all opportunities that could show up. Forget Army. Aim higher.
LLOYD: The potential of Army returning to the Cougar schedule makes this question more complicated, since to this point no date has been set to reschedule the contest that was “postponed” in mid-September. That said, I think BYU needs to be as aggressive as it can be to get to 11 or 12 regular-season games — but my caveat is that the other opponents have to have some national cachet. I don’t think it is worth much to get teams that are struggling but if the Cougars could add another big-name opponent, that might put BYU in the mix for the College Football Playoff. Has anyone asked Cincinnati if the Bearcats are up for a winner-take-all showdown in December?
5. Basketball newcomers
5. Which BYU men’s basketball newcomer do you think will make the biggest impact on the program?
LLOYD: I definitely expect it to be Purdue transfer Matt Haarms for a couple of reasons. The first is that he brings plenty of high-level basketball experience to the table, having played in Big 10 games throughout his career. The second is that I have a lot of faith in the ability of Mark Pope and Chris Burgess to develop big men. That duo impressed me with what they did at UVU and that hasn’t changed at BYU. I thought they helped Yoeli Childs make some big strides and I think Haarms will benefit in the same way. He’s going to be a key component of the Cougar success in 2020-21.
DICKSON: Haarms will certainly be an impact player but I am anxious to see UVU grad transfer Brandon Averette on both ends of the floor. His quickness and athleticism should really bolster the Cougars defense on the guard line. There will be things that aren’t in the box score that Averette will be able to contribute. His ability to play the point along with Alex Barcello will give Mark Pope some real versatility at that position. Looking long term, freshman Caleb Lohner could be an all-timer before he leaves Provo. He’s that good.