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With Utah game on the horizon, could Arizona be ‘trap game’ for the Cougars?

BYU and Arizona open up their seasons in Las Vegas Saturday, but might the Cougars already be looking ahead to next week’s Rivalry Game?

SHARE With Utah game on the horizon, could Arizona be ‘trap game’ for the Cougars?
BYU coach Kalani Sitake watches practice in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake watches practice in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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

BYU and Arizona kick off their seasons in Las Vegas on Saturday and it should prove to be a major test for both teams. The neutral field setting isn’t unique to BYU, and it has become a mainstay of the scheduling done by athletic director Tom Holmoe as an independent program.

In Arizona, the Cougars will face a talented Pac-12 team with a new coaching staff. The Wildcats will platoon quarterbacks while BYU will go with Jaren Hall. This should prove to be a hard-fought game,and turnovers will be a major factor. Here is a preview of Arizona’s situation in Tucson heading into this game

It will be a good measuring stick for BYU coach Kalani Sitake. A year ago the Cougars — who were bigger, faster and stronger — killed Navy in the opener and the Midshipmen didn’t practice tackling much, it was reported. Sitake will see if his emphasis on size and strength is improved. They’ll need it to be so when they face Utah in Provo the following week.

Cougar Insiders predictions

This week’s question: What should BYU’s football coaching staff be telling players in preparation to meeting Arizona in the opener in Las Vegas?

Jay Drew: I hate the term “trap game,” as much as anyone, but all summer I’ve had this sneaky suspicion that the Cougars are not going to be able to roll over Arizona as easily as a lot of people in Provo think. From what I’ve observed, BYU coaches have stressed the importance of the opener, reminding the players and media since spring camp started and through media day that the next game is the biggest one.

That was easy to do in 2019, when the Utes were visiting BYU for the opener. This year is different; Utah invades LaVell Edwards Stadium in Week 2, and as OC Aaron Roderick said in June, having coached on The Hill, this game is ultra-important to the Utes, regardless if coach Kyle Whittingham called it the “instate game” at Pac-12 media day.

In short, BYU coaches should put in some sort of punishment for anyone who talks about Utah this week. Arizona, after all, is a Power Five school with Power Five athletes. New coach Jedd Fisch has assembled a good, experienced coaching staff, including a defensive coordinator (Don Brown) who loves to blitz from all areas. If the Wildcats can force some turnovers, especially early, they can make this a true trap game for the Cougars. BYU 28, Arizona 24.

Dick Harmon: A year ago BYU smoked Navy in a nationally televised revised COVID-19 season and it was more of an anomaly for a Cougar opening game — to conduct a blowout. Openers are usually a crapshoot with both teams working through miscues, mistakes and penalties as they size up one another.

BYU has to have polished execution. They don’t have the luxury of starting out against a Division II opponent as a tuneup to get out the kinks. This means focus, a lot of fundamentals (tackling, blocking, no missed assignments, no drops, no big play breakdowns on defense).

BYU will have the bigger crowd in a neutral arena. I think that emotional support will prove key. I do think BYU’s receivers, backs and tight ends will lift this offense to a good start and the defense will surprise people with a mix of man coverage and eight-man drop zone. And, surprising pressure from the front seven. BYU is favored and really needs to start off with a win and get traction for the Utah game. BYU 31, Arizona 21.

Cougar tales

BYU’s impact on sports in Las Vegas has been huge over the years. In a look at this phenomenon leading up the season opener against Arizona in the new Las Vegas Raider’s facility, Dave McCann does some digging on just how big a brand the Cougars are in this gambling city.

Sitake has chosen his captains and leadership council and there are few surprises as listed by Ryan McDonald.

Former BYU student Ryan Smith, now a huge Cougar athletics booster and owner of the Utah Jazz explains his love for golf and friendship with Tony Finau in this piece published for our weekly print edition.

In the Baltimore Raven’s camp, former Cougar Ty’Son Williams may be ready for a bigger role

Spencer Linton, a host on BYUtv sports programs and games came down with COVID-19 although he was vaccinated and he shares his experience here.

Former Cougar turned minister-author Derwin Gray says the Big 12 should offer BYU membership in this piece.

From the archives

From the Twitterverse

Extra points


Comments from Deseret News readers

Barry Tramel from the Oklahoman (Big 12 country), this supported/released at the same time by Sports Illustrated and SB NATION! In light of the Pac 12 not expanding, it appears the Big 12 is prime for expansion.

Industry sources have told me BYU is the one no-brainer for Big 12 expansion, Tramel wrote. The Cougars have a decades-long tradition of winning football, all-around athletic success and a worldwide following, courtesy of its status as the educational Mormon mecca. BYU isn’t trying to build a big fan base. BYU HAS a big fan base. The Cougars in 2019 (the last non-Covid season) drew an average of 59,457 fans to LaVell Edwards Stadium, which seats 63,470. In the two times zone west of Central, BYU ranked second in home attendance, trailing only Washington but ahead of Southern Cal and Oregon. Tramel went on to say that BYU would enhance the Big 12’s TV profile. Better yet, the Cougars’ television draw would be a welcome balm to a Big 12 sweating at the revenue dip coming without OU and Texas. BYU’s viewership numbers don’t get anywhere near the Sooners or the Longhorns, but any network would be intrigued by the Cougars.

Nearly every shortlist of Big 12 expansion candidates will include BYU, like this one from Dallas News reporter Chuck Carlton.

Thank you Des News for the coverage of BYU football. The two-deep looks good. Disappointed that Miles Davis is apparently not well — after reading ARod’s comments about Davis recently I was looking forward to seeing him play. Hope he gets to.

Grateful for Coach Sitake, a good former Cougar player with whom the players can relate and who appears genuinely to care about his boys, the team, and the program.

— Terry

Let’s take care of biz in Vegas! Go Cougs!

— Mowgli

Up next

Sept. 2 | 7 p.m. | Women’s volleyball | vs. Marquette | @Provo

Sept. 2 | 7 p.m. | Soccer | Weber State | Provo

Sept. 3 | 7 p.m. | Soccer | vs. Dixie State | @Provo

Sept. 4 | 7 p.m. | Soccer | vs. Michigan State | @Provo

Sept. 4 | 9:30 p.m. | Football | vs. Arizona | @Las Vegas

Sept. 10 | 7 p.m.| Volleyball | vs. Bowling Green | @Provo

Sept. 11 | 8:15 p.m. | Football | vs. Utah | @Provo

Sept. 11 | TBA | Cross-country | Fall Classic | @Provo