This is a game featuring strength versus strength. The Cougar defense led by its stingy front seven will go up against the Utah State offense powered by an unstoppable run game.
Led by Robert Turbin (121.7 yards rushing per game), Utah State is averaging 316 yards rushing per game, which ranks 5th nationally. Defensively, BYU looks to repeat what it accomplished a week ago when they limited UCF to 81 yards rushing—142 yards below their season average.
Typically, these strength vs. strength games are decided by who is the weakest link. Each team’s strengths tend to neutralize each other. The outcome of the game comes down to which of the weaker sides can elevate its game.
The BYU offense has not played to an acceptable level this year. Flashes of greatness have been countered by spells of ineptitude. BYU is averaging 16 points and 291.3 yards per game. The Utah State defense has cost the Aggies two painful losses. They are allowing 31.3 points per game, but only allowing 270 yards per game. Will the BYU offense ignite, or will the Utah State defense clamp down?
Things to watch for:
- Getting burned deep. I have a suspicion that Bronco Mendenhall will use a similar game plan to stop Utah State as he did against UCF. That plan strongly focused on stopping the run. That focus caused BYU to get burned deep on pass plays twice. There is no doubt that Utah State took note of that and will try to do the same.
- Improved passing game. BYU can’t keep relying on big defensive or special teams plays to win games. The BYU run game is only good enough to be complementary. With or without Ross Apo, Jake Heaps must have a good game for BYU.
- Active Defensive Line. The Cougar defensive line has been much more involved the last two weeks. After making just 9 and 10 combined tackles the first two games, defensive linemen have accounted for 15 and 20 against Utah and UCF, respectively. The 20 tackles against UCF represented 28% of all tackles make by BYU, whereas the 10 tackles against Texas represented only 14%.
- Trap Turbin. As noted Robert Turbin is averaging 121.7 yards rushing per game. Back in 2009, the last time BYU faced Turbin, he came in to the BYU game averaging 124.3. The Cougar D held him to just 47 yards on 17 carries. BYU won the game 35-17.
- Revenge factor. How much will revenge be a factor for BYU? Listening to Mendenhall, he tries to downplay it. The game last year was pitiful. BYU should be very, very highly motivated to prove that game was a fluke. That won’t come easy, since Utah State will also be highly motivated. If BYU needs to use revenge to play its best and win, then so be it.
TIME: 6:00 PM Mountain Time
TV: ESPN, ESPN3.com
RADIO: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, http://www.ksl.com/
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