College Football Game of the Week: BYU vs. Navy
After a tumultuous offseason shrouded by high levels of uncertainty, college football has returned. However, the formatting for this season will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
Navy and BYU were fortunate enough to have their seasons go on as close to planned as possible and will square off against each other on Labor Day.
Kalani Sitake’s Cougars enter the 2020 season with a sour taste in their mouths after a heartbreaking 38-34 loss to Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl to close out the 2019 season.
Coming into this season, quarterback Zach Wilson is one of the most underrated signal callers in the country. In 2019, Wilson completed 62.4 percent of his passes (199 for 319) for 2,382 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also threw nine interceptions.
After tearing his ACL late last season, the Cougars’ leading rusher from a year ago, Sione Finau, is not listed on the depth chart.
So, Lopini Katoa is expected to get a significant amount of carries alongside Tyler Allegeier in the backfield.
Katoa rushed for 358 yards and four scores in 2019 and Allegeier had 119 total yards on the ground.
The leading receiver from a year ago, tight end Matt Bushman, was set to lead a talented receiving corps. However, Bushman was recently carted off at practice with a lower leg injury.
Bushman caught 47 passes for 688 yards and registered four touchdowns in 2019.
Gunner Romney is another name that should get significant touches in wake of Bushman’s absence. Romney will look to build off of his 31 receptions for 377 yards and two touchdowns last season.
On defense, Sitake’s troops are led by a strong linebacker room in Max Tooley, Kavika Fonua, Isaiah Kaufusi and Payton Wilgar.
Linebacker Pepe Tanuvasa also adds an exciting storyline to this matchup. Tanuvasa, a Navy transfer, will more than likely play an integral role in stopping Navy’s triple option attack.
Navy and the triple option go together like peanut butter and jelly. Ken Niumatalolo’s team runs the concept just about as good as anyone in the country and will have to do so without Malcolm Perry in 2020.
Perry had video-game numbers in 2019, as he rushed for 2,017 yards on 295 carries and found the end zone 21 times. Perry was later drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Freshman Perry Olsen is expected to go under center and will have rather large shoes to fill. However, three reliable running backs alongside him will make his job a bit easier.
CJ Williams, Nelson Smith and Jamale Carothers will anchor a prolific rushing attack. The trio played a large part in guiding the Midshipmen to an 11-2 record in 2019, combining for 1,603 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Although Navy doesn’t throw the ball often, Mychal Cooper will lead a group of receivers that have a knack for big plays. Cooper will be joined by Ryan Mitchell and the versatile trio of receiving backs as potential downfield threats.
The defense is spearheaded by the two leading tacklers from 2019 in Diego Fagot and Kevin Brennan. Fagot led the team in tackles with 100 while Brennan collected 81 of his own. Fagot also had the team’s lone defensive touchdown.
Evan Fochtman is also another name to look at on the defensive side of the ball. Fochtman and Brennan each had two interceptions last season and will look to make an even bigger impact in the turnover battle.
Both teams will undoubtedly come out fired up and ready to play, despite only having a month or so to prepare for the season. The players will be sloppy and potentially undisciplined at times, but both sides will get better as the game progresses.
Navy’s vaunted triple option attack can be incredibly difficult to stop and BYU’s linebackers will have to be extremely disciplined with their eyes in order to do so.
One singular play in the triple option offense can lead to endless possibilities. As mentioned previously, Navy runs its offense about as well as any team in the country, which will be the main reason why they will top BYU.
Final Score Prediction: Navy 31, BYU 17
Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.