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Cougars got what they wanted, but what will they do with it Saturday vs. Coastal Carolina?

No. 13 BYU slides into Liberty’s place to play No. 18 Coastal Carolina on the road. Will veteran experience give Cougars an edge come game day?

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BYU Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) fist-bumps with an official prior to BYU and Boise State playing a college football game at Albertsons Stadium in Boise on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

You could call it the put up or shut up game for BYU’s football program.

Disrespected by the CFP committee with an out-of-whack No. 13 ranking when both major polls have the Cougars at No. 8, we’ve spent a lot of time listening to national pundits criticize the CFP, clearly siding with Kalani Sitake and his players.

Now, a two-week layoff is replaced by a quick, COVID-19 makeup game with No. 18 and undefeated Coastal Carolina on Saturday, with ESPN’s College GameDay promoting the event.

That’s a 360-degree turn on roller skates for BYU’s highflying offense, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Zach Wilson and a hungry defense which otherwise would be sitting this weekend.

It’s one more chance, another game. It’s another try to feel the weight of that chip on the shoulder and do something about it instead of whine and complain.

Swim, or get out of the pool, BYU.

This game is intriguing for myriad reasons. 

Obviously, it came about lightning fast. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe credited ESPN with helping broker the game once it became clear Liberty, because of positive tests, threatened its trip to Coastal Carolina. Holmoe has had a truckload of irons in the fire all season long, feelers out among athletic directors across the country.

Stewart Mandel of The Athletic, a frequent critic of BYU’s schedule, praised Holmoe for the move via Twitter, asking for a peace offering from Cougar fans who have brutalized him on social media.

“Tom Holmoe AD of the year. Seriously,” wrote Mandel.

Because it all came down Wednesday, the Cougars did get in a practice session. But preparing midweek for an opponent is a huge logistical challenge for both teams.

That is fascinating. We don’t do football like this, like ever.

That two 9-0 teams, with no real connection, can play this late in the season is a dream matchup for both teams.

BYU already sat last weekend. Doing it again would not send a positive vibe.

“It would feel like preparation for a bowl game where you practice during the weeks but have no game,” explained former BYU and NFL quarterback John Beck, Wilson’s personal QB coach during the offseason.

At this stage, any and all college football teams have to be grateful to play. Boise State just had its game with UNLV canceled, its second straight cancellation.

Beck believes because of Wilson’s experience, and because he has a lot of veteran players around him, the Cougars may have an advantage, even though they will be traveling across the country.

“They have enough experience in ball games over the last couple of years, they know what it feels like to have some time off while also practicing,” said Beck. 

The three days of prep is very similar to what NFL teams do when they play on Thursday.

“You have to be very efficient with limited practice time and meeting time is so important,” Beck said. “You also have to be really smart with what you do from a game plan standpoint and have to really focus on things that the team has enough experience running. Short weeks really come down to smart coaching and how much players devote themselves off of the practice field and in the meeting rooms.”

BYU has a system of preparing players on their own time with game film and cutouts loaded on iPads. It is up to players to utilize that tool out of practice at home and while traveling. In this regard, you’d think team maturity would be an advantage.


Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall throws during game against Texas State in San Marcos, Texas, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. McCall, who has completed 20 touchdown passes and thrown only one interception, will lead his team against BYU Saturday in Conway, South Carolina.

Chuck Burton, Associated Press

In Coastal Carolina, BYU will face a unique spread-option offense, led by redshirt freshman quarterback Grayson McCall. Because of this formation, BYU’s defense will likely deploy the same defense used to beat USC a year ago, keeping the ball in front and forcing the offense to make plays and keep drives alive without making mistakes. Now more comfortable with a four-man front, look for BYU to throw different looks at McCall, but keep with its base defense most the time.

McCall has thrown for 20 touchdowns with just one interception. He’s been able to get chunk yards to a myriad of receivers who have produced for him big time.

On the other hand, Wilson has triggered a big-play offense against teams from the Sun Belt Conference and other underwhelming foes and received a ton of criticism for it.

Coastal Carolina averages 226 passing and 222 rushing yards a game, while yielding 181 through the air and 141 on the ground. BYU averages 333 passing and 205 by rush while giving up 204 through the air and just 88 on the ground.

The Cougars are 10-point favorites.

It’s not that BYU is heavily favored and won nine games, but it is the complete domination by point and yard differentials that stand out, leading the nation in both categories.

In other words, yes, BYU has played weaker foes but has displayed a knack for distancing itself and sitting starters like Wilson in third and fourth quarters. A year ago, BYU lost games to this kind of opponent after wins over USC, Tennessee and Boise State.

Because the CFP’s 13-member committee has used BYU’s schedule as its lone reason for not mirroring the national polls with far more opinions as part of the matrix, playing a ranked team this weekend is exactly the fodder — if in victory — BYU needs to add to the resume.

Coastal Carolina, at No. 18 in the CFP, is higher than any team in the shortened-seasoned Pac-12.

If the Cougars beat Coastal Carolina it will make Tuesday’s CFP rankings must-see TV.

Lose? Just come home and quiet down.