There are many things to watch for as the Brigham Young Cougars face a top 10 opponent for the second week in a row. The five biggest include defense, turnovers, an MIA wide receiver, 60 minutes (not the TV show), and the punter.
Both BYU and Notre Dame feature nasty defenses. They don’t like to see opponents pick up first downs, let alone touchdowns. Can BYU move the ball on the stout Notre Dame defense? Will the Notre Dame defense suffer a letdown after a series of emotional games, and with the biggest game of the year coming October 27? Will the BYU defense bounce back from its first poor showing this season?
The T word has been BYU’s Achilles heel. When the Cougars loose, turnovers are usually pointed to as the culprit. Three interceptions against Oregon State played a huge role in the outcome of the game. At Boise State, BYU coughed the ball up five times, and one resulted in the Broncos’ only points of the game. The Utes scored 10 points off of turnovers in a game BYU lost 24-21. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall continues to say as long as BYU doesn’t turn the ball over the Cougars have a good chance at winning.
3. Ross Apo.
The sophomore wide receiver has been underwhelming, to say the least, this season. With just 13 receptions for 94 yards, you could say he has been MIA. As much as I love Cody Hoffman, BYU needs Apo to be more involved and more effective. The more diversified the BYU offense is, the better their chances for scoring and winning the game.
4. 60 minutes.
BYU must play a full game. The Cougars played strong for 54 minutes against Oregon State, but fell apart the final six minutes. It isn’t good enough to keep the game close for a half, or three quarters. If BYU had played a full 60 minutes against Texas in 2011, then they would have won the game. USC in 2003 and UCLA in 2007 (first game) are two other recent occasions that BYU had the game within reach late, only to see the foe pull away in the end.
5. Riley Stephenson.
The BYU punter is easily having his best year this year. His punting average is up approximately 4 yards per punt. He has 17 punts of 50 yards or more already, which equals his total for all of 2010. Pinning opponents deep in their own territory has become his specialty. However, the last two games, he has been a little shaky. He has had four punts that were less than 40 yards that were nowhere near the opponents’ 20-yard line. With the defensive battle that many expect, field position could be a key factor in who ultimately wins. BYU needs Stephenson at his best.
Other interesting questions to keep in mind include: Can BYU bounce back after a tough home loss? Will BYU be mystified by the Notre Dame mystique? How will BYU handle traveling outside the Mountain Time Zone for the first time this season?
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