Week 4 Preview – BYU vs. Nevada

BYU will be back at home this week to host the Wolfpack of Nevada.  The Cougars come into the game 1-2, with a win against Washington, and losses against Air Force and Florida State.  The Wolfpack are 3-0, rolling to easy victories over Eastern Washington, Colorado State, and even Cal of the mighty Pac-10.

What we know about Nevada

They are not a team to be overlooked, and are as close a thing to a challenger to Boise State’s WAC crown than anyone has seen recently.  They have impressed statistically so far, ranking 3rd in total offense, 4th in scoring offense, 5th in rushing offense, 9th in pass efficiency (out of all 120 FBS teams).  Equally impressive is that their offensive prowess was undiminished against Cal – where they laid down 52 points.

What we know about BYU

They are struggling.  They were able to establish something offensively by putting together two scoring drives in the second quarter against Florida State, in which they cut FSU’s lead down to 13-10.  A starting quarterback is supposed to be named sometime this week, and that will help the team to establish its offense, as all of the reps taken will help build some much needed chemistry.  BYU’s stats are as scary as Nevada’s, albeit for different reasons.  The Cougars are ranked 100th in total offense, 101st in passing offense, 105th in pass efficiency, 110th in scoring offense, and 119th in rush defense.  Why is that important?  Nevada was the national leader in rushing offense last year.

Keys to the game

Jake Heaps and the Receivers. A clever on campus band?  No.  Key to winning games, yes.  The receivers need to get open, and Jake needs to make his read and get rid of the ball quickly.  If Jake can build on what he did in quarter 2 against FSU, and develop more chemistry with his receivers, this season can turn around in a hurry.  Otherwise, the season will end up with more Florida State-like outings, where the Cougars gave up 8 sacks.

Ball control. In BYU’s losses this year, they have lost the turnover battle.  Winning this one will go a long way to help them in a victory against the Wolfpack.  Key also is not just waiting for turnovers, but creating them.  BYU will have to take the ball away from Nevada’s offense, and keep it away from them if they hope to keep the score from getting out of hand.

Team Identity. I feel like I’ve mentioned this a lot, but from the coaching staff down to the waterboy, this team doesn’t seem to have a vision this year.  Maybe it goes back to not choosing a starting QB.  I get that we wanted to be fair to both Nelson and Heaps, but why not take a leap of faith on one a month ago, let him get into rhythm with the offense, and if he really sucked it up during game time, you call in your #2…isn’t that what it’s all about?  The QB call is just an example of how the team is lacking direction from the top down.  Once the coaches get a vision of what they want to see, the players will be able to start moving that direction.  The Cougars have a lot to learn, and the season isn’t new anymore.

Prediction

In my season preview, I chose BYU over Nevada 38-21.  Based on recent performance by both teams, I’m going to flip-flop that call this week, and call this one a win for Nevada.  Wolfpack 38, Cougars 21.

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