BYU football preparing to face the Big 12 Standard Bearer Baylor

PROVO, Utah – After BYU football suffered a 38-24 loss to Baylor in Waco last year, BYU coach Kalani Sitake called attention to his team’s physique.

The trenches are where Baylor imposed its will, and they outscored BYU throughout the second half.

At the time, BYU was the nationally ranked team, while Baylor was unranked and looking to earn respect.

The Bears earned that respect from BYU as they pushed the Cougars, causing Sitake to become frustrated with the lack of physicality in the postgame.

The loss gave BYU some perspective on how much better they need to be to be in the top tier of their future home, the Big 12 Conference.

Baylor ended up being an elite team last year, winning the Big 12 Conference, a Sugar Bowl and a No. 5 ranking.

BYU football hosts nationally ranked Baylor in Provo

One year later, is BYU better equipped to meet the challenges posed by Baylor, a future foe of the Big 12?

Early indications from the first week would suggest that BYU is in a better position to compete with the Bears. But we won’t know until Saturday night in Provo (8:15 pm, ESPN, KSL NewsRadio).

“We are very excited about the opportunity to play Baylor and we know them. Very, very good team; obviously classified. They are the standard for the Big 12, the conference champions, and we can have them in Provo. I’m very excited for that game and to see how we compare to our game against them last year so far.”

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Both teams enter the game 1-0 after landslide wins to open the season. BYU defeated USF, 50-21, in a game that was not as close as the final score suggests.

Baylor crushed FCS Albany 69-10, with new starting quarterback Blake Shapen passing for 214 yards and completing 85% of his passes. Shapen beat out Gerry Bohanon, who was traded and started for the USF Bulls last Saturday against BYU.

Former BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes appears to be putting together another potent offense in Waco, as the Bears were listed as preseason favorites to win the Big 12 in 2022.

BYU/Baylor: Is a rivalry brewing?

With the way BYU did against Baylor last season and with no rival Utah on the schedule through 2024, BYU/Baylor has the potential to become a rivalry. Both schools are faith-based, and the atmosphere in Waco for last year’s game was top-notch.

“When we played at Baylor last year, I thought it was a great experience,” Sitake said. “…I think respect will always be there. There is definitely going to be intense competition. But they are a program that we want to be like.”

With no Utah on the schedule until 2024, it might be easy to see Baylor as the potential big game on BYU’s schedule. Last year, the Utah game was one in which players had quietly counted for a chance to end a nine-game losing streak.

They were successful in defeating a team from Utah that won the Pac-12 last year.

There isn’t a long losing streak against Baylor heading into Saturday night. But it couldn’t hurt BYU to get a win over the Big 12 a year before they enter the league.

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“We surround every game of the season. Everybody looks forward to every game,” BYU football defensive lineman Lorenzo Fauatea said. “I think you could say that Baylor is a team that everyone looks forward to. Just from last year’s game, playing against (Jeff) Grimes — respect to Coach Grimes and Coach (Eric) Mateos, some really good guys right there. So I think it’s just a game that we all look forward to; Top 25 team, they have a great program, so nothing better you could ask for on our Saturday.”

No. 25 BYU vs. No. 10 Baylor

Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium

Start: 8:15 p.m. (MT)

Television: ESPN

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (Pregame starts at 6 p.m.)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday 12-3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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