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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Game Preview: Can BYU do the unthinkable?

The Brigham Young Cougars (2-1) are just five days removed from losing its first game of the season. The game took a physical and emotional toll on the team. If they thought the atmosphere in Salt Lake City was hostile, then just wait until they get to Boise. As crushing as the loss to Utah was, the Cougars need to move on quickly and prepare for this game. They have a chance to do the unthinkable.

The Boise State Broncos (1-1) have been nearly unbeatable at home on their blue turf over the last decade. As pointed out previously on BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL, Boise State has not lost any kind of game in September since 2007.

The 2012 Boise State squad, however, is not your same old Broncos. The attrition experienced the last two seasons at Boise State has been monumental. Nothing exhibited this more than the first game of 2012 when Boise State lost to Michigan State, 17-13. After a bye week, the Broncos bounced back with a 39-12 win over Miami (OH), but Miami held a 9-8 lead with less than two minutes to play before halftime.

The Kellen Moore-led Boise State teams would have put the Miami game away by halftime, and finished with a final score around 56-6. They would have won the Michigan State game comfortably, even if the Spartans were ranked no. 13 in the country. Perhaps, by year end, Boise State will be back to its impressive ways, but at this point in time, Boise State is very beatable.

Moore's replacement Joe Southwick has passed for 478 yards in two games, and the Bronco's leading rusher D.J. Harper has 170 yards, but 162 of those came against Miami.

The Boise State offensive line has not allowed a single sack yet this year. Bronco Mendenhall should have pressuring the quarterback as one of his main objectives this game. Southwick should not have a good passing game against the Cougars. With the weapons BYU has in the front seven, Southwick should be hit, knocked down, and even sacked all game long.

Stopping Harper should also be a priority. If BYU can stop these two players, then Boise State will have a hard time scoring more than it did against Michigan State.

The BYU offense needs to show some new wrinkles. The conservative play calling in games one and two were understood to be a strategy by offensive coordinator Brandon Doman to allow the Cougars to surprise future opponents, like Boise State, with plays that they had not seen before and would not know how to defend. In the Utah game, however, the Cougar offense did not show anything new.

The health of quarterback Riley Nelson will also be a factor. After the Weber State game it was revealed that he was suffering from back spasms. His back appeared to be affecting him during the Utah game, although he did not miss any downs because of it. Whether the short week will make his health an issue is yet to be determined. No one at BYU is saying anything about it.

The last time these two teams met was in 2004 in Boise. The Broncos would finish the regular season undefeated. BYU suffered its third consecutive losing season. The final score, however, did not reflect that the teams were unevenly matched. A last minute field goal attempt by BYU missed, and Boise State escaped by a narrow 28-27 margin.

Comparing each team in 2012 to its 2004 counterparts, BYU is vastly better, and the Boise State team is not as good--again, at least not at this point.

The key to the game for BYU will be playing mistake free football. Without mistakes, BYU should be able to get the upper hand early. At worst, the game will stay even, which won't be enough to induce the home town fans into a frenzy. Eventually, BYU's experience will lead to the Cougars pulling away and coming home victorious, but only if BYU plays mistake free.

All-time series: Boise State leads 2-0
Last: Boise State won 28-27 (2004)
Streak: Boise State won 2

TIME: 7:00 PM (Mountain Time)
TV: ESPN
RADIO: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM Ch. 143, www.ksl.com

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

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