A perfect start and the outstanding play of quarterback Zach Wilson have No. 12 Brigham Young rolling into LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday night, looking to avoid a letdown against sputtering Texas State.
BYU (5-0) and Texas State (1-5) ride opposite trajectories into Provo, Utah, as crystallized in their results a week ago. The Cougars rallied in the fourth quarter of a 43-26 win Oct. 16 at Houston, outscoring their hosts 22-0 in the final 15 minutes.
The next day, Sun Belt Conference counterpart South Alabama outscored Texas State 13-3 in the fourth to secure a 30-20 win. The loss was the Bobcats' third in a row, and the fourth by 10 points or fewer on the season.
Texas State coach Jake Spavital cited missed opportunities in the conference loss, which included two drives stalled on downs in South Alabama territory and a possession that began at the Jaguars' 40-yard line and produced just a field goal.
"We're not good enough yet to overcome a lot of mistakes," he said. "Right now, we're still in that struggle where our room for error is pretty small."
The Bobcats' near-misses include a seven-point loss to the other nationally ranked opponent they have seen in 2020, No. 16 SMU, a closing-minutes defeat at Boston College by three points, and a double-overtime heartbreaker against UTSA.
UTSA is the sole common opponent between BYU and Texas State. The Roadrunners gave the Cougars a 27-20 test on Oct. 10.
With that, and the other close losses on the Bobcats' docket, BYU coach Kalani Sitake said he recognizes the threat Texas State poses.
"From what I see, they're highly competitive," Sitake said in his Monday press conference. "A lot of respect for their coaches and their players. They have a lot of great athletes on their team."
Memories of poor performances after marquee wins in recent years also linger for the Cougars. BYU's time in the polls this season marks its first foray since 2018, when -- after just two weeks making the Top 25 early into the campaign -- it dropped out following back-to-back blowout losses.
"As we have seen in the years past, we win big games and then we lose games we shouldn't," BYU linebacker Zayne Anderson said at Monday's press conference. "It comes down to focusing on each game and really locking in and taking every game very (seriously). That's what we are planning on doing. This is a really good Texas State team, and they have a really good offense and are capable, so that's where our focus is now."
Sitake pointed to Texas State's offense specifically, as well, noting Spavital's track record as an assistant coach to such air-raid luminaries as Sonny Dykes and Dana Holgorsen -- the latter overseeing the Houston team BYU rallied to beat last week.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, come into Saturday's matchup averaging 28 points per game, faced with a BYU defense allowing half that. Quarterbacks Brady McBride and Tyler Vitt have both thrown six touchdown passes for Texas State, and combine to average just under 236 yards per game.
For his part, Spavital is focused on the quarterback when BYU has possession. Cougars playmaker Wilson has dazzled in 2020, throwing 12 touchdowns with just one interception and rushing for another six scores.
"I've been fortunate to coach a lot of good quarterbacks over the years, and (Wilson) is an elite kid," Spavital said. "He's in the talks for the Heisman (Trophy), and he's a guy (who is) going to play for a long time in the NFL.
"What makes him special is that he's not a one-dimensional quarterback," Spavital added. "He's not just a spread-gun type of guy. They're so multiple in what they do. They use their tight ends, they're in 12 personnel and 21 personnel but then they'll go empty (backfield) and spread."
The result of BYU's multiple looks: a 43.6-point per game average during its undefeated start.
--Field Level Media