What do BYU and Utah State need to do to win bowl games this weekend?
vs. Alabama-Birmingham (8-4)
Dec. 18, 1:30 p.m. MST
Radio: KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM
Utah State (10-3)
vs. Oregon State (7-5)
Saturday, 5:30 p.m. MST
BYU (10-2) is favored by a touchdown and Utah State (10-2) is a one-touchdown underdog when the two Utah schools kick off the bowl season Saturday.
The Cougars play UAB ( 8-4) in the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. USU will play Oregon State in the first-ever Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl in Los Angeles.
This is a perfect chance for both to achieve 11-win seasons and set the stage for offseason workouts, recruiting and the 2022 season.
The Aggies have a chance to put an exclamation point on a remarkable debut season by Blake Anderson.
The Cougars are looking at a second-straight 11-win season featuring a perch in the national rankings. It could also be the final game for sensational running back Tyler Allgeier — or not.
The 11-win thing is a big deal for both programs.
“Kalani (Sitake) told us something I hadn’t even thought about,” said BYU defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua, “He said since 1984 the school has not had a team win 11 games twice in a row. I want to be proud to be a part of that.”
In order to do so, BYU will need its offense to help out its banged-up defense big time.
Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said UAB likes to keep the ball on offense and limit the opportunities the opposing offense has — so Jaren Hall and Allgeier need to be ready to produce points early and late and do it consistently. But running against UAB’s defense will be tough to do because of both size and speed.
UAB is a team the Cougars should defeat. Aside from 12-1 Georgia (a 56-7 loss) and 12-1 UTSA (a 34-31 loss), Blazers opponents are a combined 49-68 with two teams that had three wins (Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech) and two-win Tulane. They did lead UTSA at halftime — the best Blazers team effort all year.
For a team that went 6-1 against P5 competition and 5-0 in the Pac-12, a loss by BYU to UAB would not be the statement Sitake is looking for as final rankings are posted in January,
UAB features a capable runner in sophomore DeWayne McBride (794 of 1,188 yards in the final seven games) and the 34-31 loss to a good UTSA team was a legitimate gutty effort. McBride is questionable, however, after being carted off the field in the UTEP game.
“Kalani has done a good job of getting our team to be grateful for the opportunity to play and to respect our opponent. We are excited to play in this bowl game,” said Leiatuau.
BYU’s defense really needs to find better tackling and physicality out of the front seven against the Blazers without Payton Wilgar.
The Aggies have plenty of reasons why they can take down Oregon State, a team that beat Pac-12 champion Utah — when the Utes had Cam Rising on the field.
It’s called assault by the pass.
Aggies QB Logan Bonner is golden. He’s passed for 3,554 yards and 36 touchdowns and receiver Deven Thomkins is as dangerous a deep threat as we’ve seen anywhere.
The Beavers are 2-3 in their last five games. That gives USU, with seven wins in its last eight games, great hope.
The Beavers lost to Washington State when the Cougars put up 491 total yards and 399 yards on 32 of 46 passes.
The Aggies can pass the ball and score in a hurry.
On the other hand, not only did Oregon State’s bully rush game do in the Utes 42-34, it took down USC 45-27, Washington 27-24, Stanford and ASU before losing to Oregon in the season finale.
If there is ever a time for Utah State to do some damage against a Pac-12 team in a bowl game, it is Saturday. The Pac-12 has cannibalized itself. USC is down. Oregon is not Oregon. Utah won the league but lost to the Beavers, BYU, and San Diego State. And the Aggies killed SDSU in the Mountain West championship game.
Blake Anderson has it rolling in Logan and if you squint and blink a little at that loss to Wyoming, you see a team that is tough, fights hard in the fourth quarter and is explosive enough to put fear into the Beavers’ defense.
On the other hand, OSU can simply batter defenses into submission with a run game that is as good as any in the western U.S. If OSU’s offense can control the line of scrimmage, the USU offense may not get that many chances to put up points without turnovers.
B.J. Baylor leads the Beavers’ run attack with 1,259 yards and 13 touchdowns and DeShaun Fenwick has 448 yards. Utah’s linebackers and front line struggled to contain OSU’s run game and the Utes turnovers were a factor.
“They are well built,” said Anderson. “They are as good as any team we have played this season including Washington State, BYU and Boise State. They are very physical and we will need to overcome that with speed and quickness.”
Utah State 34, Oregon State 31: Aggies firepower and late-game grit lift Utah State to an upset of the Beavers in a hard-fought, dramatic bowl.
BYU 38, UAB 17: Jaren Hall should get back healthy targets Gunner Romney, Puka and Samson Nacua and with a rested Allgeier, the Cougars will roll to a convincing season-finale win.