The final game of Week 1.0, or Week 0 if you want to call it that, is on Monday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. The BYU Cougars will open the season against Navy in what promises to be a much different season for both teams.
As an independent, BYU didn’t have to worry about a conference cancelling the season on them. They just needed enough of the smaller conferences to play football. BYU wouldn’t have survived if the AAC and Sun Belt backed out of their schedule. The Mountain West pulled the plug on their season, so there wouldn’t have been anywhere for BYU to go.
In the end, the Cougars figured it out and they will play an eight-game schedule in 2020. They will play military academies in back-to-back weeks, with Army on the docket next weekend. This might be the most difficult stretch of the season for BYU. That said, getting another triple-option team next week helps.
After seeing Navy on Monday night, the Cougars should be well prepared for the Black Knights. Army and Houston are going to be the toughest teams that Houston sees in 2020. It’s not a particularly difficult shortened campaign for BYU. However, Zach Wilson is going to have to play a lot better if they’re going to get the most out of this season.
Wilson can be good at times, but just a bit too inconsistent for my liking. His team went 7-6 last season, with the season capped off with a 38-34 loss in the Hawaii Bowl. I had Hawaii in that game, which was one of the more entertaining bowl games out there last year.
Hawaii scored late and then killed BYU’s next drive with an interception. If you watched much of BYU last season, Wilson was a hot and cold quarterback. Navy on the road should give him a challenge right out of the gate. Head below for our free BYU vs. Navy pick for September 7, 2020.
BYU Cougars vs. Navy Midshipmen NCAAF Betting Odds:
BYU Cougars vs. Navy Midshipmen Prediction:
Zach Wilson was going to have a reliable target offensively at tight end. A big reliable target, but Matt Bushman is out for the season with an Achilles injury. He’s the most important piece to the BYU offense and has been getting looks from the NFL.
Bushman is a senior, so will begin to focus on recovering and hearing his name called at the 2021 NFL Draft. His loss hurts the BYU offensively immensely. Not only is he a big target, but Bushman is an athlete that causes a lot of mismatches in the secondary.
BYU hasn’t had a lot of time to prepare for life without Bushman in the offense. It’s a recent injury, so the Cougars are scrambling to find a suitable replacement. The current option for BYU is to go with redshirt freshman Isaac Rex or fullback Masen Wake in place of Bushman. It’s likely that Rex will get the bulk of the snaps at the No. 1 tight end spot.
Without Bushman, the Cougars are losing a senior with 125 catches for 1,719 yards and 9 touchdowns on his resume. The entire offense was going to work around him. Now, the Cougars are left going into their first game with more questions than answers. Wilson threw for 2,382 yards with 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in 2019.
That was with a healthy Bushman in the offense. The Cougars passed for 284.7 passing yards per game, which is actually quite good. However, they had problems finishing drives and turned the ball over at what felt like the worst times. The Midshipmen will gladly play the ball possession game in this contest. That is the modus operandi of the triple-option.
Navy will have to replace quarterback Malcolm Perry, who was a terrific pilot of the offense. He caught on with the Miami Dolphins as a wide receiver, but with Navy, Perry was effective in operating the option offense. Perry rushed for 2,017 yards last season.
That’s a lot of production to lose, but Dalen Morris was good in camp. The senior has only rushed the ball for 20 yards in 5 attempts in his career at Navy. It might take a minute for him to gel in his first career start at the collegiate level. BYU returns talent from their linebacker core, including two seniors and two sophomores.
The biggest positive for the Cougars in 2020 is the return of defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga. Tonga could have gone to the NFL, but opted to return to Provo. His presence is going to be important on Monday night. They need experience to figure out a tricky triple-option, and should be able to do it against a first-year starter in Morris. This game should be of the lower scoring variety on Monday night.