BYU football coach Kalani Sitake spent a lot of time praising No. 10 Baylor and Bears’ head coach Dave Aranda during his weekly press briefing on Monday, calling the reigning Big 12 champions “the standard” for the league the Cougars will join in 2023.

They are the conference champs and we get to have them here in Provo. Really excited for the game and excited to see how we match up from our game against them last year until now.” — BYU coach Kalani Sitake

The No. 25 Cougars (1-0), who will likely jump a few spots in the AP Top 25 and into the Coaches’ Poll when the new rankings are released Tuesday, play host to the Bears (1-0) on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m., ESPN) in a rematch of last year’s 38-24 Baylor win.

“Really, really good team, obviously (highly) ranked,” Sitake said. “They are the standard for the Big 12. They are the champs. They are the conference champs and we get to have them here in Provo. Really excited for the game and excited to see how we match up from our game against them last year until now.”

Sitake said he believes the Cougars have done a good job the past 10 months building their size and strength in the trenches, and Baylor will be a measuring stick on how that progress is coming along after the Bears manhandled them up front last year.

“This will be a game that we are excited about just to get on the field and play and be at home,” he said. “We will see how we match up against the conference champs. ... They are the standard. They are the champs. We want to see how we match up against them.”

Sitake hopes BYU fans and administrators will treat the Bears as well as the Cougars were treated last year in Waco.

“They are a program that we want to be like,” Sitake said.

Minor depth chart changes

The Cougars’ depth chart for the Baylor game — Baylor’s first visit to Provo since 1984, if that year means anything to BYU fans — includes Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua as WR1 and WR2 as usual but does also have a few very minor changes.

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Sitake didn’t have an update on the condition of either star receiver Monday, but acknowledged a few guys are “questionable” for the home opener Saturday after BYU’s 50-21 win over USF last week.

Sophomore Connor Pay is the starting center over senior Joe Tukuafu and junior Harris LaChance is the starting right guard. Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia and sophomore Campbell Barrington are co-starters at right tackle, carrying the ‘or’ distinction at that spot.

Saturday’s OL starters vs. USF were Suamataia, LaChance, Pay, Clark Barrington at left guard and Blake Freeland left tackle.

Baylor coach Dave Aranda reaches out to tight end Drake Dabney during game against Albany in Waco, Texas, Sept. 3, 2022.
Baylor head coach Dave Aranda reaches out to tight end Drake Dabney during game against Albany in Waco, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. BYU coach Kalani Sitake considers Aranda both a mentor and a friend. | LM Otero, Associated Press

Hobbs Nyberg remains the listed starter at punt and kickoff return, although Nyberg wasn’t with the team last weekend and backup receiver Talmage Gunther handled the return duties effectively.

Sitake’s own high standard

Sitake, who recently celebrated the birth of a daughter with his wife, Timberly, said he’s excited to chat with former BYU OL coach Eric Mateos, who is now with Baylor, because Mateos and his wife are expecting their first child soon.

Sitake is 49-29 at BYU, and will be going for his 50th career win as a head coach on Saturday against Aranda, who he considers a close friend.

“I think Dave Aranda does an amazing job running that football program and as a coach and a mentor. He’s got a great mind and I like him. He’s a friend of mine,” Sitake said. “Back in the day, we (did) a lot of professional development, working together. Not so much now, because we are both head coaches and playing against each other. But I have tons of respect for him and admire him as a person, and definitely him as a coach, too.”


Cougars on the air

No. 10 Baylor (1-0) at No. 25 BYU (1-0)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. MDT

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LaVell Edwards Stadium

Provo, Utah

TV: ESPN

Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM

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