There are only three games between ranked teams from the AP Top 25 in Week 3. The final one on Saturday will take place on Saturday night when No. 19 Arizona State faces its toughest challenge yet this season traveling to Provo, Utah, to take on No. 23 BYU in front of what is expected to be a raucous crowd at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The Cougars are one of the hottest teams in the country after back-to-back wins against Pac-12 opponents, first shaking off a slow start to beat Arizona in Las Vegas in Week 1 and then nabbing a rivalry victory against Utah last week in front of the home fans. From BYU coach Kilani Sitake celebrating on the sidelines to the blue-clad fans that packed the house and eventually celebrated through the night it was one of the best college football scenes of the weekend. Now the challenge is to refocus on Arizona State, a team that enters with no losses and no reasons to doubt its preseason rating.
The Sun Devils beat Southern Utah and UNLV by an combined score of 78-24, which is exactly what you want to see from a group that is poised to make a run at the Pac-12 South title with start quarterback Jayden Daniels in his third year as the starter and a defense that has imposed its will on opponents and done a great job at forcing turnovers. If BYU is going to start 2021 with a 3-0 record against Pac-12 opponents it's going to require a strong effort to maintain that level of competition from Week 2 to Week 3 to avoid the letdown.
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BYU vs. Arizona State: Need to know
QB Jaren Hall leading the post-Zach Wilson era: BYU's first win against Utah since 2009 was highlighted by a career-best performance from starting quarterback Jaren Hall. The redshirt sophomore threw for three touchdowns against the Utes and added 92 rushing yards on the ground, and while the offense also leans heavily on running back Tyler Allgeier for its production Hall has done a great job of limiting the mistakes and keeping the Cougars efficient in the red zone.
Toughest test yet for Jayden Daniels: The Arizona State quarterback has been a household name since he got the Sun Devils off to a 5-1 start as a freshman, beating Michigan State on the road and winning one-score games at Cal and against Washington State. The team's emphasis on establishing the run game has been the major storyline but BYU's defense is going to demand much more than anything the Sun Devils faced against Southern Utah or UNLV. Daniels is among the best in the country in the fourth quarter of a close game, and given our expectations for Saturday night the Sun Devils will need his clutch playmaking to get in and out of Provo with a win.
BYU has had recent success against the top 25: This is the first matchup between teams ranked in the AP Top 25 in LaVell Edwards Stadium since the BYU-Utah game in 2009. BYU is 4-2 in its last six games against ranked opponents regardless of the venue or the Cougars' ranking, and after taking down the Utes last week accomplished the feat of beating at least one ranked opponent in each of the last four seasons. That's only been done one other time in school history, from 1996-99 under the guidance LaVell Edwards himself near the end of his Hall of Fame tenure in Utah.
How to watch BYU vs. Arizona State live
Date: Saturday, Sept. 18 | Time: 10:15 p.m. ET
Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium -- Provo, Utah
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
BYU vs. Arizona State prediction, picks
I do think that there will be somewhat of an emotional letdown for BYU, and maybe even for the Cougars fans who not only brought a ton of energy to the Utah game but also traveled well to Las Vegas for the opener against Arizona. I think Herm Edwards has had this game circled for most of the preseason and knows that it will be the team's best chance to test its Pac-12 title-contending chops against a quality opponent before getting into conference competition. One read of this matchup is that BYU is the more battle-tested team, and that may prove true early in the game, but I also think the Sun Devils have a higher ceiling and more gas in the tank. Prediction: Arizona State (-3.5)
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