BYU vs. Boise State: 5 Questions

Will Joe Critchlow be BYU's starting quarterback vs. Boise State? (Credit: Rick Egan, The Salt Lake Tribune)

The BYU Cougars take on the Boise State Broncos tonight. Here are five questions to keep in mind while cheering on the Cougars.

1. What will BYU do at quarterback? This is the question of the week. Beau Hoge started last week, but he was hobbling even before leaving the game with concussion symptoms. He is definitely out. Koy Detmer, Jr. threw three interceptions and did very little to capitalize on the opportunity to become the new starter while Tanner Mangum's ankle finishes to heal. Ideally, Mangum would sit out at least one more game. However, the junior from Eagle, Idaho, has been taking reps in practice. Will Mangum start the game and go as long as possible? Will he suit up, but only be there as a safety valve?

If Mangum doesn't play, then one of two freshmen might get the starting nod: Joe Critchlow or Kody Wilstead. Both Critchlow and Wilstead are in the same situation Mangum was as a freshman in 2015. They are just a few months removed from their two-year missionary service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU intended to redshirt them, but circumstance may require one of them see the field, now. By all accounts, Critchlow has looked better on the scout team. If BYU chooses to go this route, he is the one who will play.

2. Will BYU's pass defense continue to improve? The Cougar pass defense took a big step forward against Utah State. The Aggies completed just over half of their 30 pass attempts for a measly 176 yards. Their pass efficiency rating was 118. BYU also got pressure up front, and sacked the quarterback four times.

Boise State has a history of exploiting deficiencies in the BYU secondary. In four of the seven meetings, Boise State has averaged over 10 yards per attempt (2003: 10.4, 2004: 10.8, 2014: 13.2, and 2016: 11.3). Three times, Broncos quarterbacks have had pass efficiency ratings over 174 (2004: 178.1, 2014: 224.7, 2016: 174.4).

Through four games this season, Boise State quarterbacks are averaging 7.1 yards per attempt, and have a 131.4 pass efficiency rating.

3. Will BYU have a pick six? If you have been following the site this week, then you already know that BYU has returned four interceptions for a touchdown in the last three meetings with Boise State. You may also remember that two of Boise State's four opponents this season have returned interceptions for touchdowns. Just last week, BYU safety Micah Hannemann took an interception back for six at Utah State.

4. Is this deja-vu? The last time Boise State had two losses going into a game with BYU was 2013. The Broncos lost big to Washington, and had a tight loss to Fresno State. Each of those teams had a connection with BYU. Washington was coached by former Cougar quarterback Steve Sarkisian that season. Former BYU running back Joshua Quezada transferred to Fresno State before the 2012 season.

This year, Boise State lost big to Virginia. The Cavaliers are coached by former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. There are also several former Cougars who are assistant coaches under Mendenhall. The Broncos also have a close loss to Washington State on its resume. The red Cougars are coached by BYU alumnus Mike Leech.

BYU won the 2013 game 37-20. Is this a sign that BYU will win tonight?

5. Can BYU pull off the upset? This season has been disturbingly similar to 2010 for BYU. The 1-4 start; the poor quarterback play; the ugly loss to Utah State in Logan. After that loss to Utah State seven years ago, BYU shutdown a good San Diego State team, and pulled out a 24-21 win.

College football can be very unpredictable. A team can look bad one week and fantastic the next. The 2013 BYU Cougars is another good example. BYU didn't play well in its season opener at Virginia, but embarrassed Texas the next week.

BYU need this win, badly. Will desperation translate to victory?

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