It is homecoming for the Brigham Young Cougars (4-2) this weekend. While many have spent the week remembering the history of BYU, the football team is set to make history when they welcome the no. 10 ranked Oregon State Beavers (4-0) to Provo.
For the first time in school history, BYU will wear all-black uniforms. It is also the first time in several years a BYU game will be televised on ABC. With Oregon State ranked in the top 10, it marks the first time a top 10 team has come to Provo since TCU in 2009. Earlier that same year was the last time BYU beat a top 10 team (no. 3 Oklahoma, 14-13).
BYU hasn’t beat a top 10 team in Provo since 1990. Ty Detmer led BYU to a 28-21 win over no. 1 ranked Miami. The 2012 Cougars hope to end this 22 year drought.
The chances that BYU can pull off the upset greatly increased when Oregon State announced Monday that starting quarterback Sean Mannion would miss the game due to a knee injury. Mannion was averaging 339.5 yards passing per game, and threw for 306 yards against BYU last year. In some circles of Beaver fans, he was starting to be talked about as the best Oregon State quarterback ever. Mannion’s replacement will be junior Cody Vaz. Vaz is very inexperienced and has not played a down since 2010.
The BYU defense is ranked 12th in the nation allowing just 169.8 yards passing per game. As good as Mannion is, he probably would have had some struggles against this defense. That doesn’t bode well for Vaz.
That means, Oregon State will probably have to run the ball to beat BYU. The Cougar D is even stingier against the run than the pass. No one is better at it. BYU gives up just 59.5 yards rushing per game, which is the best in the nation. Oregon State ranks 105th nationally averaging 120 yards rushing per game.
Much like the last time Oregon State came to Provo (1986), the Beavers will face one of the best defenses in BYU history. Points will come at a premium. The question is, will 10 points be enough to win like it was in 1986?
The Oregon State, however, is no slouch on defense, either. The Beavers are no. 4 nationally against the run (67.25 yards per game), no. 1 at preventing 3rd down conversions, and allow just 17 points per game. The weakness to the Oregon State defense is passing. The Beavers allow 288.5 yards per game, which is 112th best in the nation.
Arizona was able to pick apart the Beaver defense and score 35 points and rack up over 500 yards total offense.
Unfortunately, BYU has had its own troubles on offense this year.
Senior quarterback Riley Nelson will be back in the lineup for BYU. He suffered a back injury in game two of the season and has sat out since midway through game four. When Nelson has been healthy, the Cougars have had a pretty good passing attack. Can the offensive line give Nelson time to throw on Saturday?
The big guys up front have come under criticism this season. They must have a good game if BYU is going to win. If Nelson takes another hit that sends him to the sideline, BYU will be in the same position at Oregon State. James Lark would replace Nelson, and, like Vaz, he has limited playing experience. However, he has played sparingly this season, as well as 2011, and 2010.
Freshman running back Jamaal Williams will be relied on to carry the bulk of the running load for the Cougars.He may end up being a wild card in this game. If he is able to continue his growth and runs well, that could completely change the complextion of the game.
The key to the game for BYU is protecting Riley Nelson. The defense is going to do its job. Even if Nelson and the offense may struggle, it won’t take a lot of points to win. BYU should be in this game late. If that is the case, Nelson will find a way to get BYU the final score that it needs to win.
All-time series: 5-5
Last: BYU won 38-28 (2011)
Streak: BYU won 2
TIME: 1:30 PM (Mountain Time)
TV: ABC (Regional Coverage), ESPN3, or ESPN Game Plan
RADIO: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, www.ksl.com
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