Week 5 Preview – Utah State @ BYU

BYU was able to rebound after their home loss to Utah, overcoming the Knights of UCF last week 24-17. They won through superb special teams play, great defense, and just enough offense to get the job done. But the game was a step in the right direction! It felt much like the SDSU game last year, when we rebounded after the loss at Utah State, and won a close, scrappy game. This week, the Cougars are looking to avenge last year’s loss to the Aggies, and continue on the path of improvement. Comparing this team to the team that played up in Logan last year would be a mistake, as so many significant changes have taken place. Utah State got up early in the game last year, leading 24-3 at halftime. That won’t be the case this year.

What we know about Utah State (1-2, 0-0 WAC)

Utah State ended the season 4-8 last year, with wins over BYU, New Mexico State, San Jose State, and FCS Idaho State. Which of those doesn’t belong? Yeah. Not hard to miss. Lately though, this Utah State team has been in games they had no business being in, and they have lost games they had no business losing. Last season they lost at Oklahoma 31-24. They opened this season in a heartbreaking loss to Auburn (yes, that Auburn) 42-38. Last week though, they lost in overtime against Colorado State. Their lone win came in week two against Weber State, who they thumped 54-17. The Aggies have the 5th best rushing average in the nation, with 316 yards per game (high of 440 against Weber St.), and they are 14th overall in points scored, at 42 per game. This team is a dangerous one, and they already have an offense that’s clicking. On the flip-side, their defense is only ranked 97th, giving up an average of 31 points per game. Players to watch: freshman QB Chuckie Keeton, and junior RB’s Robert Turbin and Kerwynn Williams. The success of these players will determine the success of the Aggies.

What we know about BYU (2-2)

A win last week helped, but BYU is still eager to ease some of the pain associated with the Utah game, and hopefully give ESPN’s national audience some better memories of BYU’s offense. BYU also comes into this game looking to avenge their 31-16 loss at Utah State last season. It had been ten years since the Aggies previous win in the series, and you have to go back another ten years to find the one before that. The Cougars have more than enough motivation to put the hurt on their “little brother” this Friday night in Provo.

Keys to the game

Doman. As much as he may not like it, I think Doman may be back up in the box again this week, and I think that’s where he belongs. While his sideline presence is missed, I think his ability to see the whole field is invaluable.

Heaps. Utah State has the weakest defense that BYU has seen this year. This should be a great game for Jake to break out of his accuracy slump (which has been aided by dropped passes), which last week was well below 50%.

The Rush Attack. BYU’s rushing crew had a good game last week against UCF, with Kariya, DiLuigi, and Quezada each contributing effectively. Again, lining up against the Utah State defense should be a welcome treat for these guys, after having faced the likes of Ole Miss and Texas already this season.

Special Teams. Cougar special teams had an amazing game last week. Hoffman’s kickoff return for a TD, a muffed punt recovery, a handful of touchbacks, and a great punting average all combined to make the night truly “special” for this unit. You can’t really improve on that, but I do hope that last week inspired some confidence in this group and that they will be able to sustain the high level of play that they exhibited against UCF.

Bronco D. The defense really had a great game against UCF, who came in averaging more than 200 yards per game on the ground, and were held to just 81 yards. The defense will again be focused on stopping the run, and in this case, the run is everything to Utah State. As they average more than 300 rushing yards per game, take that away, and they’re left with the nation’s 104th best passing attack to beat BYU. Knowing this, the Aggies will have come up with some sort of passing attack, likely aimed at weaknesses in BYU’s secondary. I think the D may give up a big play or two, but will keep Utah State with fewer than 100 rushing yards.

Prediction

This game provides another Friday night on ESPN – with no other college football games on – so they eyes of the nation will be upon the Cougars once again. The home crowd, the special teams, defense, and yes, even the BYU offense will prove too much for the Aggies, and BYU will win in dominating fashion: 38-13.

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