The question heading into Saturday’s college football game between No. 8-ranked BYU and FCS-foe North Alabama wasn’t whether the Cougars would be favored.
It was how much BYU would be expected to win by.
The answer came as the Cougars were made nearly seven-touchdown favorites as they prepared to host the winless Lions.
But don’t expect BYU players and coaches to think North Alabama is going to come in to LaVell Edwards Stadium and just meekly wait to get beaten.
“Part of our preparation is respecting your opponents,” Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I see some of the things that Chris Willis is doing as a head coach. I know they are 0-3 but if you watch the film like I have on all three phases, he prepares his guys the right way. He’s had some great mentors and there is a lot of pride in them showing their best. They’ve been competitive. If you watch them, they haven’t given up more than 28 points in a game. They are well-coached with good schemes. They have to have all of our attention. We have to be at our best.”
That has been the message Sitake has repeated throughout the season, emphasizing the objective for his program to improve each and every week, regardless of the opponent.
The main goal, of course, is to keep winning football games. That can get more challenging, however, as the stakes go up.
“I think it’s obvious that when you’re undefeated you want to stay undefeated,” Grimes said. “We don’t talk about that a whole lot with our guys but I have talked a little bit about teams that I have been on where we were really playing for something late in the year. When you’re undefeated every week the game means a little bit more.”
Grimes said he has referenced the 2010 Auburn team that won the national championship, saying that team had players on it that were driven to keep the momentum even as the pressure increased.
“They were willing to pay the price, work hard that week and earn the right to play well so that they could hang on to that hope of being in a great position at the end of the year,” Grimes said. “I have talked about that a little bit maybe on a Monday, where we’re where we’re kind of talking about where we are as a team and what just happened in the previous game. But then we quickly move on and the only thing that matters is the game at hand that week.
“We just talked about playing a one-week season where we are 0-0 right now in our minds because all that matters is how we play this week. Yeah, I think we are playing for something a little bit more — but the way you get to that something more is by playing great this week.”
BYU junior running back Tyler Allgeier expects the North Alabama to come in with nothing to lose and excited to stun the country.
“Right now we are 8-0 so we have a bounty on our head,” Allgeier said. “Everyone wants to beat us. They can come in with a bang. Yeah, we might be the favorite but they are the aggressors right now because we have that bounty on our head. We have to have the mindset of respecting every opponent we face and winning this week. That’s probably the most important thing that we have to have.”
Although the Lions don’t have any victories in their COVID-19 pandemic-shortened season, Cougar defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said that this is a team that is very capable of turning that around.
“We’ve got a really good offense, a really good defense and we’re playing an FCS team hasn’t won,” Tuiaki said. “Then you throw on the film and offenses are always innovative in the way they move the ball and create problems for you. This team is no different from any of the other teams when it comes to that. We’ve got to make sure that our schemes are sound, that we’re not giving up anything cheap and dominating up front like we have been.”