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Kalani Sitake, BYU need to tap into fan energy when hitting road for final two games

No. 14 BYU makes first of two road trips to end regular season, beginning Saturday at Georgia Southern

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake talks with Aggie fans in Logan on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake talks with Aggies fans in Logan on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This article was first published as the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.

If you want to study the level of energy that’s erupting with BYU’s fan base over football, basketball, recruiting and entry into the Big 12, just tune in this Saturday for BYU’s game at Georgia Southern on ESPN+ and watch how many Cougar fans fill up that school’s stadium.

BYU fans in the stands at Georgia Southern could reach more than 50%.

The trajectory of BYU’s athletic program right now may have reached a new level in terms of enthusiasm as Kalani Sitake takes the No. 14 Cougars back into action for the final two games of the season.

Sitake told reporters this week he compares Georgia Southern’s offense to Coastal Carolina and he says his team must be prepared to be in a dogfight.

Here are some pregame stories on this game from Jay Drew including a report that receiver Neil Pau’u will not play, possibly for the rest of the season.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: With national media mentioning Kalani Sitake in connection to Power Five coaching jobs at USC and Washington, what will (or will not) happen with him?

Jay Drew: I will start by saying this: I was skeptical when I heard Kalani Sitake was a candidate for the USC opening. I am far less skeptical about his candidacy for the Washington job. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he’s the top candidate in Seattle.

Kalani just seems like a much better fit at Montlake than he would be in Tinseltown. How will it go down? My prediction is that nothing happens until after the regular-season finale at USC on Nov. 27.

After that game, Sitake will either be an incredibly hot commodity or pushed to the back burner a bit. I have heard, through some back channels, that BYU’s athletic department leaders and school administrators will do all they can to keep Sitake and basketball coach Mark Pope in the fold as they enter the Big 12 in 2023.

Obviously, that means big pay raises for both men. If BYU officials are smart, they won’t wait more than a couple of weeks to re-work Sitake’s contract completely. Not an extension. A complete, lengthier, bigger contract. And a bigger buyout clause. Nip this thing in the bud before he wins out and is sitting on a second straight 11-win season.

Stay tuned. The next few weeks could get really, really interesting around here.

Prediction for BYU-Georgia Southern game: BYU 41, GSU 24.

Dick Harmon: All the chatter about somebody pilfering Kalani Sitake is interesting and fun but in reality, all this energy is wasted unless he is actually offered a contract with dollar signs on it. That has not happened. But that doesn’t mean this job jump talk can’t be used by athletic director Tom Holmoe or Sitake himself to elevate paychecks among his staff. In the early stages of these coaching changes with names being thrown around, it becomes a circus and a distraction.

Unless you’ve been in a cave the past 16 months, BYU football has energized a hungry fan base and it is on fire worldwide. BYU administrators could not go out and buy this kind of momentum and interest because it is organic. It is coaches, players and fans making a connection at the grassroots level. A home sellout for Idaho State? Filling up half or 25% of stadiums on road trips? Lines of students waiting for hours to get into LaVell Edwards Stadium? Then look at attendance at UCLA, USC, Cal, Stanford, Arizona or Washington State.

I hope Sitake listens, uses any and all big job interviews and any promise of money as leverage with BYU to redo the contract extension he signed in August. Leverage, leverage, leverage. He should get all he can get. Knowing Kalani, he loves his players and the recruits he has asked to play for him in the future. This means something to him. He doesn’t take that lightly. BYU is not only his alma mater but a school that offered him his first head coaching job. Kalani would want any money thrown to him to be given to his assistants, although he might take a taste.

Having said this, I’ve been told with the Big 12 dough due to arrive, BYU will take care of Sitake and basketball coach Mark Pope for their loyalty and work. The money is coming, folks. Bank on it. Sitake, plead your case for your guys, and dig in for Big 12 play. Give Holmoe a chance to shuffle some papers and talk to the money folks. Of note, the lawyer who does personal deals for Holmoe and Kyle Whittingham also represents Sitake.

Prediction: BYU 38, Georgia Southern 21.

Cougar tales

BYU’s 66-60 win over San Diego State was a grueling defensive battle that felt like a postseason matchup. The Cougars missed a ton of 3-point shots, but senior Alex Barcello once again played a key role in delivering big plays that led to the win. Here is my game analysis. This is what Pope had to say about his new signee, Farmington four-star guard Collin Chandler. Earlier, BYU defeated former NCAA Tournament team Cleveland State. Here is a news story on the signing of Chandler.

From the archives

From the Twitterverse

Extra points

  • BYU women dominate New Mexico in NCAA 1st round (Daily Herald)
  • Van Noy has best game of his NFL season (Deseret News)
  • BYU, Utah ranked for first time in AP poll (KSL Sports)

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers

The NY6 is no longer a long shot for a 10-2 BYU because ties in football games no longer exist. They simply need to win out, finish in the top 12 minus conference champions, highest ranked group of five or replacement champions ranked behind them.

Here is a scenario WITHOUT a single upset that puts BYU in:

Oregon loses at Utah

Oklahoma loses at Oklahoma State

Michigan State loses at Ohio State

Michigan loses to Ohio State (either result works)

Wake Forest loses at Clemson

Top Four: Georgia, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Alabama

Alternates: Michigan, Ole Miss

Champs: ACC, Big 12, Pac-12

At-large: ND, BYU, Big 12

It does not matter who wins the ACC, Pac-12 or Big 12, but it certainly helps BYU if it is Virginia, Utah and Baylor.

No. 14 BYU, will be ahead of both Michigan State and Oklahoma after their second loss, because neither of those teams has a resume that beats the Cougars (wins against the Pac-12 South champion and runner-up, the current and likely Pac-12 North runner-up and the MWC Mountain champ, while Virginia still controls its destiny in the ACC Coastal).

Michigan State has only played three teams with winning records, Michigan and Western Kentucky which it beat and Purdue which “upset” the Spartans. The committee put Michigan ahead of Michigan State because they viewed the head-to-head loss as an upset. Oklahoma similarly has just two quality wins, Texas Tech and Kansas State.

While that MSU win against Michigan is big, isn’t Baylor’s dominance of previously unbeaten Oklahoma and two-loss BYU better? That is why I see MSU dropping behind Oklahoma State, Baylor and Notre Dame tomorrow to 10th. Oklahoma will be behind WF and MSU. Here is tomorrow’s likely rankings:

1 GA 2 AL 3 Ohio St 4 Oregon 5 Cin 6 MI 7 OK St 8 ND 9 Baylor 10 MI St

11 WF 12 OK 13 Ole Miss 14 BYU 15 WI 16 IA 17 Pitt 18 TX AM 19 SDSU

20 UT 21 NC St 22 UTSA 23 AR 24 Houston 25 (Clemson/K-State/AZ St)

Next week, BYU passes up WF and Michigan State. Final week, Oklahoma.

— SSJarvis

Up next

Nov. 16 | 8 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Oregon | @Portland, Oregon

Nov. 17 | TBA | Diving | Missouri Invitational | @Columbia, Missouri

Nov. 17 | 11 a.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Arizona | @Provo

Nov. 18 | TBA | Swimming | Dixie Invitational | @St. George

Nov. 18 | 4 pm | Women’s soccer NCAAs | vs. Alabama | @Charlottesville, Alabama

Nov. 18 | 7 p.m.| Women’s volleyball | vs. Pacific | @Stockton, California

Nov. 20 | 1 p.m.| Women’s volleyball | vs. St. Mary’s | @Moraga, California