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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

BYU vs. No. 24 Boise State: Five Things to Watch For

Is there really a game tomorrow? I feel like I am still waking up on Sunday morning and replaying BYU and Utah over and over again in my head. What little things could have changed the outcome and wishing that the Ute student section would have run on to the field early one more time.

But alas, the Brigham Young Cougars do have a game tomorrow night and probably feel similar to the fans. They probably are thinking they just got off the bus from Salt Lake City and now are on their way to Boise.

This short turnaround is one of the big keys highlighted in this week's Five Things to Watch For.

1. Can the Cougars bounce back after a tough, emotional loss?

I asked this same question last week about Utah as they headed into the BYU game. Obviously they did, so I would think BYU is capable of it too. The question is, will they?

Any time a team is coming off of an emotional loss, the biggest key is how fast does the other team start the game? If the opponent starts off quickly, usually the team coming off the loss buries its head between its legs and just gives up. If the opponent starts off slow, it gives the team coming off the loss hope, because they forget about their woes from the previous week. They quit living in the past and start living in the present and that makes all the difference.

Unfortunately, Boise State is not known for slow starts. In fact, they are regarded as one of the quickest striking offenses in the country. The BYU defense may need to come up big early to keep the Cougars in the game and give them that hope they need.

2. Is five days between big games enough time for BYU?

Yes, Boise State had a game five days ago too, but they weren’t playing their most heated rivalry game. They were playing at home against Miami (OH), who is a decent team, but not one that would really scare Boise State. Playing in big games back-to-back weeks can be tough.

Bronco says he doesn't think it will be an issue. When asked if he is concerned about any hangover from Utah he said, "Literally, it's really hard for anyone else to understand. As a coaching staff, that game already seems like it was weeks ago. We've put so much into Boise State already that until I get asked like this, I really don't think about it."

I want to believe him, but I have a hard time doing so because I've seen these short turnarounds between big games be so hard for teams in the past.

Look at Oregon last season. The Ducks were winding down their season and ranked No. 6 in the nation. The big game they had circled on their calendars was against No. 3 Stanford. Led by Andrew Luck, the Cardinal were undefeated and poised to make a run at the national championship. But the Ducks ruined Stanford’s hopes and won in a highly anticipated and emotional battle. A week later, Oregon seemed like they were on top of the world. After Oklahoma State lost a Friday night game, Oregon was in control of its own destiny and would likely go to the national championship game for a rematch of the season opener against LSU. But they lost the next day to USC as they missed a last second field goal. The emotions of the game against Stanford made it difficult to come out at full speed against the Trojans, and the Ducks lost their chance at their rematch with LSU.

BYU might have an even bigger uphill battle than Oregon did, because they are playing on the road, coming off of a loss and have less time to prepare for their next game.  I don’t know if five games is enough to prepare for a game like this, especially after playing Utah on Saturday. I know BYU wants the ESPN exposure, but I think this is something Athletic Director Tom Holmoe should try to avoid in the future.

3. Can BYU’s offense start fast this time?

The Cougars’ offense usually takes a couple drives to get going. When they’re on, they’re on, but they aren’t very consistent from drive to drive, and they always seem to be off on the first drive. The last time BYU scored more than just seven points in the first quarter was last season against Idaho when they scored 14.

I really believe in order for the Cougars to keep up with Boise State, they will need to score 10 or 14 points in the first quarter. If not, they will likely fall behind and lose that competitive edge they need to stay in the game emotionally.

4. Can Riley Nelson be consistent?

Last week I asked how Riley would handle a tough road environment, as we hadn’t seen him really put to the test. Nelson had his good moments and his bad moments. He wasn’t spectacular, but he was horrible. This week he needs to string those good moments together and eliminate the bad if the Cougars are to have a chance.

5. BYU faces a tough road crowd for second straight week. Will offensive line figure out the snap count?

On Saturday, BYU was penalized for false starts and delay of games over and over again. The Cougars ended the night with 12 penalties for 75 yards, most of those being false starts because of the crowd noise.

Boise State is known for its boisterous crowd as well. Did the offensive line learn its lesson? We’ll see.

The Cougars really have the cards stacked against them this week. If they can pull this win out it will give the season new light. The team and fans alike will start believing that the Cougars can win games against Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Oregon State and can be competitive on the national stage. If they falter however, it might be reminiscent of the 2010 season, where bad just kept turning to worse.


The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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