On Saturday, the No.9 Baylor Bears will travel to Provo, Utah, for a Top 25 matchup against the No.21 BYU Cougars in the last meeting between the schools as non-conference opponents. BYU will join Baylor in the Big 12 Conference next summer.
BYU’s LaVell Edwards Stadium is regarded as one of the loudest environments in college football. In preparation for their visit, the Baylor coaching staff pumped crowd noise onto the practice field this week to portray the always raucous BYU fans.
“We know it’s going to be loud, it’s going to be different,” Baylor’s sixth-year wide receiver Gavin Holmes said. “It’s our first big road test. They’re going to be juiced up, but we can’t let the outside noise get into our circle and what we’re trying to do, so that’s just what we’re preparing for right now.”
Both programs were impressive in season-opening wins last weekend. Baylor trounced Division II foe Albany 69-10, while BYU led 38-0 at one point over South Florida before cruising to a 50-21 victory.
Third-year Baylor head coach Dave Aranda said the road matchup against the Cougars is “a storm we have to run into.” Last season, the future Big 12 rivals met in Waco, with the Bears winning 38-24.
Last year’s meeting occurred later in the season when Baylor had a couple of Big 12 conference games under its belt. With an earlier matchup this year, BYU will be the 2022 Bears’ first true test to show what they are made of, said Aranda.
“What a great opportunity with this next game vs. BYU,” Aranda said. “[BYU head coach] Kalani [Sitake] and his team are playing at a high level. It’s an opportunity for us to show what we’re about.”
One thing Aranda has harped on in the lead-up to the game is the experience and discipline that BYU brings. The Cougars returned 18-of-22 starts from their 10-3 team last season, while Baylor had to replace multiple key starters from last season’s 12-2 Big 12 title-winning team.
“A lot of experience. There’s a great physicality about them,” said Aranda. “They play an old-school type of game, it’s cool to see. We’re definitely going to be challenged.”
The biggest challenge BYU presents comes in the form of their Junior starting quarterback Jaren Hall, who, as Baylor knows, can hurt teams with his speed and arm. In the 2021 matchup between the two teams, Hall picked apart the Bears’ defense with 342 yards on 22-of-31 passing.
He completed four throws of at least 45 yards and ran in a 56-yard touchdown.
Hall finished the 2021 season 189-of-296 (64%) for 2,583 yards and 20 touchdowns, with only five interceptions. He was also the team’s second-leading rusher with 62 carries for 307 yards and three touchdowns (5 yards per carry).
“He’s going to be one of the better quarterbacks we’ll play all year,” Aranda said of Hall. “He doesn’t put the team at risk. He was good last year, he’s better now.”
For BYU, the meeting against Baylor will serve as a measuring stick for the program’s Big 12 readiness, with their coach, Sitake, calling the Bears the “standard of the Big 12.”
“We will see how we match up with the conference champs,” Sitake said.
Both Baylor and BYU are regarded as disciplined, well-coached teams, so it will be interesting to see what gives when the two teams clash Saturday night.
Baylor enters the matchup as three-and-a-half point underdogs to the Cougars. People interested in watching the game will need a cup of coffee, as the game is scheduled to kick off at 9:15 p.m. CT on ESPN.