Morry Gash, AP
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst watches as players warm up before an NCAA college football game against Florida Atlantic Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
PROVO — BYU’s string of tough opponents to start the 2017 season continues this weekend in game four, as the Big Ten’s Wisconsin will visit Provo for the first time ever. The Cougars are 1-1 all-time against the Badgers, with the win coming in Madison in 1980. The most recent meeting between the two schools came in 2013, when the Cougars lost 27-17. Kalani Sitake’s team is hoping to get a big win on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ABC).
Head coach Paul Chryst’s team should expect a little more of a test than their previous two games this season. Here are six important numbers to watch for this weekend:
This season is the first time since 2012 that BYU has played two teams ranked in the AP Top 15 at the time of the game. That year, BYU played No. 10 Oregon State and No. 5 Notre Dame in back-to-back weeks, losing both games. Facing multiple top-ranked teams in a season has been rare for the Cougars in the past. In fact, it has only happened three times in the last 25 years. The Cougars faced Texas A&M (No. 12) and Kansas State (No. 14) in 1996, Oklahoma (No. 3) and TCU (No. 8) in 2009, and the two teams mentioned above during that time frame.
BYU’s overall record in those games is .500 (3-3), while Sitake will look for his first head coaching win against a Top 15 opponent. His record currently stands at 0-2, with a loss on the road last year against Boise and the LSU game earlier this season.
BYU’s special teams — led by assistant head coach Ed Lamb — has been very good so far this season. The Cougars are currently ranked seventh nationally in kickoff return defense, allowing 81 total return yards on six return attempts. That works out to a 13.5-yard-per-return average.
The kicking game has usually held BYU’s opponents’ return game inside the 25-yard line and has only registered two touchbacks. This can help the defense in the field position battle, and may be an important aspect if BYU is to pull off an upset against the Badgers.