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Will BYU run the Pac-12 table in SoCal?

BYU travels to USC for a matchup with its final Pac-12, P5 opponent of the season

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BYU Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall slides down after a run as BYU and Utah play.

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall slides down during game against the Utes at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. With a win over USC on Saturday at the Coliseum, the Cougars could finish a perfect 5-0 against Pac-12 teams in 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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

Kalani Sitake will take his No. 13-ranked BYU Cougars into the Coliseum to play USC in the regular-season finale on Saturday with a chance to win 10 games and hold on to a lofty national ranking.


Cougars on the air

No. 13 BYU (9-2)

at USC (4-6)

Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MST

At the Coliseum, Los Angeles, California


Radio: KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM

As BYU’s experience with independence winds down, this is a great opportunity for BYU’s players and staff to put an exclamation point on two straight seasons of national rankings and a 5-0 record against Pac-12 competition this year. A win would give BYU a 6-1 record over Power Five programs and set up Sitake’s staff for some interesting recruiting pitches heading into the December early signing period. Sitake said BYU will get the best of USC.

USC is struggling to finish after getting blown out by crosstown rival UCLA and holding on to a four-win season amid a search for a new head coach. The Cougars are favored by six points because USC’s defense is depleted but the Trojan offense is more than capable of moving the football on the Cougars.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: Has BYU done enough to validate itself this season as a legitimate top-15 team the past two years, or can it all go away with a loss at struggling USC?

Jay Drew: Talk about a bummer. Through no fault of its own, BYU has been thrust into a no-win situation at the Coliseum on Saturday when it will take on slumping USC.

Win, and that’s what the Cougars were supposed to do against a USC team that was thoroughly embarrassed by UCLA last Saturday. Lose, and all those hardfought wins against Pac-12 foes Utah, Arizona, Washington State and Arizona State go out the window.

For the umpteenth time this season, BYU’s credibility seems to be at stake in its first trip to face USC in Los Angeles since 2003. Trouble is, the Cougars are so beat up right now that they aren’t the same team that beat those other four schools in the so-called Conference of Champions.

I would like to think that BYU has done enough already to validate its No. 14 ranking in the CFP rankings, but there’s so much recency bias these days that those other wins and the 66 points the Cougars laid on Virginia could easily be forgotten. That’s just how it works for non-Power Five teams.

All that said, I think the Cougars tend to play to the level of their competition this season, and so I think they will rise up and have enough to beat the Trojans in a shootout. Nothing has come easy for BYU this season, and I expect that trend to continue, even if USC has lost four of its last five. 

Prediction: BYU 38, USC 34 

Dick Harmon: The Cougars are 20-3 and have been ranked No. 10 or lower twice in the past 24 months. Last year’s 11-1 mark was supposed to be an asterisk season, kind of a fake season. But after losing five players to the NFL draft, including the No. 2 pick Zach Wilson, and making it back to the Top 10 after mowing through Arizona, ASU, Utah, South Florida and Utah State, that argument should be put to rest. Sitake is not on some fluke run after his team beat the two favorites to win the Pac-12 South.

The trouble with USC is the Trojans have enough talent to rise up and beat BYU after proving a dumpster fire the past few weeks. Many Pac-12 poll voters have switched from self-loathing to lighting up with Utah’s late-season recovery. That’s fine, all the Cougars can do is play the team in front of them and if they have to do it without star players like Payton Wilgar, James Empey and Neil Pau’u, that’s the breaks. If BYU beats USC and is 5-0 in the Pac12 and wins 10 games it is a phenomenal season, especially after beating rival Utah 26-17.

Regardless of the outcome, a recent uptick in recruiting and talented transfers is a mark of momentum for the program in what really was a rebuilding season. A win would give BYU fans an argument that their Cougars belong in the Rose Bowl.

Prediction: BYU 28, USC 24

Cougar tales

It will be known as the golden weekend of BYU sports as the football team beat Georgia Southern, women’s soccer advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA soccer championship by beating Virginia and Connor Mantz and Whittni Orton won individual titles in the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Florida. Oh, and BYU basketball upset No. 12 Oregon in Portland in the biggest takedown of a top 15 team by a non-ranked team in 40 years a few days earlier.

Here is my column on why BYU shouldn’t take a late season road trip to play a Georgia Southern again

From the archives

From the Twitterverse

Extra points

Taysom, Saints agree to new contract (Deseret News)

BYU experiences rare 24-hour of sports dominance (KSL.com)

Alex Barcello earns first WCC player of the week (KSLsports)

Pope doesn’t think Barcello gets enough credit (Salt Lake Tribune)


Comments from Deseret News readers

Is there a more overrated athletic program than Oregon? The football beatdown by Utah and the basketball beatdown by BYU were both epic. Takes more than cute uniforms and cheerleaders to win games.

— 65PowerTossSweep

Here’s a thought for all the BYU naysayers.

Out of the 43 bowl games scheduled there are only 10 that are projected to have two top 25 teams playing. BYU and USTA in the Independence bowl is one of them. In the current system many bowl games have more to do with contracts than quality matchups.

— wallyball

Up next

Nov. 23 | Women’s volleyball | vs. San Diego | @San Diego, California

Nov. 24 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Texas Southern | @Provo

Nov. 25 | Women’s basketball | vs. Florida State | St. Petersburg Showcase

Nov. 27 | TBA | Women’s basketball | vs. West Virginia/Purdue | St. Petersburg Showcase

Nov. 27 | 5 p.m. | Women’s soccer NCAAs | vs. South Carolina | @Provo

Nov. 27 | 6:30 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Utah | @Salt Lake City

Nov. 27 | 8:30 p.m. | Football | vs. USC | @Los Angeles, California