PROVO — BYU cruised to an easy win against a struggling FCS opponent, North Alabama.
No one thought the Lions would be any kind of a match against the Cougars, and were in fact nearly a 50-point underdog. Not only did BYU cover that spread, but Zach Wilson didn't even play in the second half.
Routing an 0-3 FCS team isn't a feather in the hat for the top 10 Cougars, but we did learn a few things from Saturday, or at least a few lessons were solidified.
Here are three things we learned from BYU's 66-14 clobbering of North Alabama:
Zach Wilson is on his way out
National media have been in love with Wilson this season, and for good reason. The junior is in the top 5 or top 10 of almost every statistical category for college quarterbacks, and he's projected as a possible Heisman finalist.
Against North Alabama on Saturday, Wilson threw for 212 yards and four touchdowns, averaging over 10 yards per throw. And by the way, that was all in the first half. After BYU built a 42-point lead in the first half, Wilson sat out the second and never even put his helmet on.
Yes, Wilson did this against an inferior opponent, but that's what good quarterbacks do against teams like this. Wilson continues to make a case for a virtual invite to the Heisman race, and after Saturday it's safe to say this is his last year at BYU. Wilson has been projected as a first round draft pick, and it seems all but guaranteed that he will enter the 2021 NFL draft.
BYU quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick mentioned that every team in the NFL has reached out to him about Wilson, and undoubtedly some are very interested. That's great news for Wilson, but possibly some Cougar fans have broken hearts as any hopes they had that Wilson may come back for his senior season seems to be slim to none.
Isaac Rex is a worthy successor of Matt Bushman
When tight end Matt Bushman suffered a season-ending injury before the 2020 season even kicked off it seemed the tight end position would not be Wilson's go-to. But we were wrong.
Sure, wide receivers Dax Milne and Gunner Romney are some of Wilson's favorite targets, but freshman tight end Isaac Rex has emerged as one of BYU's biggest offensive threats.
On Saturday, Rex recorded three catches for 20 yards and two touchdowns. That brings his season total to 24 receptions for 271 yards and eight touchdowns. That's as many touchdowns as Milne and Romney combined.
Not only will BYU lose Wilson to the draft, but they're likely losing Bushman as well as he heads to the NFL. The loss of Bushman this year made some Cougar fans nervous, but I think we've found his successor in Rex. And it's great news because there is still a lot of time for him to get more experience and make some noise in Provo.
The 2021 Cougars could be special
2020 has been a crazy season for all of college football — and a bit of a Cinderella season for BYU. With one more game on the schedule, BYU is sitting at 9-0 with a 34-point victory over a then-Top 25 team on the road. No, the Cougars strength of schedule has not been great during the pandemic football season, but they have taken care of business and it will be a memorable one. But what about 2021?
It would seem things could be dour considering they're likely losing their Heisman hopeful quarterback, All-American tight end and defensive juggernauts like Khyiris Tonga, Isaiah Kaufusi and Zac Dawe. But the 2021 Cougars may have more up their sleeve than we think.
Those losses will take a toll, especially on the defensive side, but there is a lot to be excited and optimistic about in 2021, and we got to see a little of that on Saturday.
On the defensive side, BYU will be returning strong players like Max Tooley, Lorenzo Fauatea, Payton Wilgar and Keenan Pili; not to mention freshman Tyler Batty, who is poised to have a special career at BYU.
The offensive side of the ball looks even better. We know Baylor Romney can play considering his strong display starting a few games last year for the Cougars at quarterback. In addition to Romney, BYU has Jaren Hall, if he can get healthy, as well as the highly recruited Jacob Conover. The receiving corps of Milne, Romney and Pau-u should all be back next year, as will breakout 2020 names like Masen Wake, running back Tyler Allgeier and the aforementioned Rex. Offensive lineman Brady Christensen and James Empey should also be back in the lineup.
Then there are the freshman. There are a lot of freshman on this team with high hopes. Names like Miles Davis, Kody Epps, Keanu Hill and Carter Wheat are just a few of the names we will likely get to know a lot better in 2021.
While there will be a lot of talent on the field for the Cougars in 2021 as well as a coaching staff that is more mature and poised, having an undefeated season next year will be momentously more difficult than in 2020.
The 2021 schedule includes games on the road against Arizona, Baylor, Washington State and USC. While teams like Utah, Arizona State, Boise State and Virginia will all be traveling to Provo. Going 12-0 against this schedule isn't impossible, but also isn't likely. The Cougars should be good in 2021 and could give some hope to Cougar fans for the next few years.
BYU is now off until Saturday, Dec. 12 when they host San Diego State in the last scheduled game of the year. It's possible the Cougars could add a game before then, but if that doesn't happen BYU fans need to get comfortable without any football for the next few weeks.