Week 4: BYU @ Michigan 9/26/15
I am actually having a really hard time making a confident pick for this game. It seems when BYU becomes nationally relevant they have a HUGE let down game. However, that usual let down in years past would have happened last week at UCLA but it didn’t happen. BYU actually played really well, minus the rush defense. We learned a lot about BYU last week and the pollsters actually gave BYU a lot of respect for their 1-point loss at UCLA. I think the final test for if the Cougars have actually “arrived” will be if they can go to Ann Arbor and take down the Wolverines.
Michigan doesn’t actually look too bad themselves. Their only loss came in their first game of the year, at Utah. That was the first game under coach Jim Harbaugh and they had some kinks but still came out with only a one possession loss (24-17) with the real deciding factor being a defensive pick-six for the Utes. Not a bad outcome considering the circumstances and playing in Rice Eccles against a now ranked Utah team. If Michigan does win on Saturday, many in the nation will start the talk that Michigan Football is back. They could even hop in to the rankings.
The Deciding Factors
The biggest question mark for me is if BYU NG Tuiloma will be available for this game. Some rumors on Twitter (some by Tuiloma himself) have opened the possibility that he might play, but I doubt it. However, his presence changes the dynamic of BYU’s defense. I wrote a few weeks ago that when he left the Nebraska game with the MCL injury, the Huskers running game began to pick up. BYU compensated OK without him against BSU but UCLA, obviously, had their way in the running game. If he is back, BYU will be much tougher against the run with him closing the gaps up front. His addition would be huge against the hard running style of Harbaugh.
Who wins the red-zone?
BYU has been excellent about getting points when they are in the blue-zone. On the season, BYU is 9-9 in the blue-zone. They have 6 TD’s and 3 FG’s. That is good enough for a tie for #1 in the country. But do you know who else is tied for #1? Michigan. They are 10-10 in the red-zone with 8 TD’s and 2 FG’s. Both teams take care of business in the red-zone, at least offensively. This is where the Michigan defense gives the Wolverines the advantage. Michigan is #13 in the nation in red-zone defense. BYU? Tied for 68th. Advantage goes to Michigan.
BYU is +4 in turnovers this season and had 3 INT’s against UCLA. Conversely, Michigan is -2. If BYU can make Michigan one dimensional by taking away the passing game they will have a good chance in this game. Michigan QB Jake Rudock has thrown 5 INT’s in three games. Mangum did throw one but it was a forced ball on the last 4th down. BYU should once again have the advantage in turnovers this weekend and they will need them. The only reason BYU may have been in the game against UCLA was that BYU essentially forced 4 turnovers (3 INT’s, 1 onside kick recovery).
Again, this is a tough call for me. BYU has been playing in big games and traveling a lot these first few weeks. Will it finally catch up to them this week? I think BYU will have to put up more points than they have been to win this game.