BYU vs. Washington State: Five Things to Watch For

Every Brigham Young Cougars football game this year, Blue Cougar Football will give readers five key storylines to watch for during the game. With the season just getting underway, a lot of questions will be answered Thursday night. These are some of the ones I am most interested in having answered.

1. Will Jeff Tuel control the game for WAZZU, or will his once promising career continue to decline?

On Saturday, Washington State Coach Mike Leach still hadn’t announced the game day QB. On Tuesday, he declined to comment who would start. He did say however that he was leaning towards Tuel. Tuel garnered All-Pac 10 honorable mention honors in 2010, his sophomore season. He looked to be the quarterback of the future for WAZZU, but injuries in 2011 put him out of commission. If Tuel gets back to where he was two years ago, especially with the speed and talent of Washington State receiver Marquess Wilson,  the Cougars in blue will be busy in the secondary trying to break up passes from the Cougars in crimson and grey.

My prediction is Tuel will start, and will play well. I don’t think he will come out on top in the end, but I do believe this game will start a great season for him.

2. Can BYU defenders match up with Marquess Wilson?

Wilson was selected second team All-Pac 12 in 2011 at wide receiver. He was second in the Pac 12 in receiving yards and touchdowns. This year, he was placed on’s preseason first-team All-American squad. He is also on the preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff (nation’s top receiver) and Maxwell (nation’s top player) awards.

Washington State head coach Mike Leach is known for his “air raid” attack that he mastered at Texas Tech. If Tuel is back to form, Wilson has a man who can get him the ball down field, and Washington State could score a lot of points this season.

The good news is that Bronco Mendenhall is confident in his secondary. He called it the most athletic secondary he has had since coming to BYU.

The players also seem confident and ready to step up to the challenge. “It’s always fun to be challenged,” Preston Hadley told the BYU student newspaper, The Universe. “That’s why we come out here and play every day. You’ve got to be competitive. That’s what football’s about. We just go with our best versus their best and see what happens.”

The Brigham Young Cougars have struggled in the secondary in the past against tall, fast receivers. The TCU game for the past few seasons has been a reminder of that. I think Wilson will have a great game and BYU’s best hope is to contain him, not to stop him. If they contain him, they can win.

3. Who will be the difference maker in the game?

Last year in the season opener, it was Kyle Van Noy who saved the day for BYU. Will they need another hero this year? And who could that be?

The obvious answer on offense is Riley Nelson. His ability to get the ball to his playmakers and to be a playmaker himself will greatly impact the flow of the game.

On defense, look to see big production from Daniel Sorensen. He started last season off hot, with a fumble recovery against Ole Miss and an interception against Texas. If he can be the catalyst for a big turnover against WAZZU, the game could be in the Brigham Young Cougars’ hands.

4. How will the players look after the diet and offseason conditioning?

One of the major stories coming out of BYU media day was the offseason diet and conditioning program Mendenhall put his players through.  The football program received a lot of scrutiny from local sports radio and other media for being “soft.” Mendenhall must have known it was an issue as well, because nearly every player mentioned their diet in their media day interviews.

Will the diet and offseason conditioning make the Brigham Young Cougars faster but smaller? Or will they be more efficient? Time will tell, but I believe the offseason regiment will do wonders for the team this season.

5. Will the fans show up like they can?

Will the whiteout actually happen? During basketball season, the Marriott Center blinds you when you walk through the concourse because of all the white in the seats. At LaVell Edwards Stadium however, you see pink, white, green and black mixed in with the white and blue. With the school calling for a whiteout, how much pink will be in the stands? Opposing basketball teams have said how intimidating the Marriott Center is when there is a whiteout, so why not LES?

Also, with 65,000 seating capacity, a game on national television on the opening night of college football, playing against a team from a BCS conference, where the coach is a graduate of Brigham Young University, the crowd should have reason to be loud, right? When LES gets cheering, you can hear it echo off of the mountains. If the stadium gets to that point, Washington State will have a tough time getting its calls in.

Feel free to comment on, disagree with or add your input to any of the five key points I have listed. It will be interesting to see how this game unfolds.

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