BYU Football: Week 8 What to Watch For

The Cougars look to continue their offensive success against an Idaho State team that is 2-4 against FCS competition and 2-5 overall.  The Bengals’ only FBS opponent was Washington State to whom ISU fell, 62-21.  Let’s face it, if BYU shows up, they will win.  But besides a win, there will be other things Cougar fans will be hoping for, the biggest of which will be a continuation of the offensive success.  If BYU wins despite the offense, rather than because of the offense, BYU fans will not be satisfied.

Over the last few weeks, the backfield has seen a couple of new faces and quite a few improvements.  Since QB Riley Nelson took over under center, BYU’s offense has seen much improvement.  In my last article, I commented on former starter, Jake Heaps’ lack of success, especially in the “blue zone.”  Heaps’ percentage drops from 57 percent to 33 percent in the blue zone and 25 percent inside the ten yard-line.  Nelson who is completing over 74 percent of his passes actually improves in the blue zone with 75 percent and 100 percent inside the ten.  What does all this mean?  Riley Nelson can finish drives with touchdowns, not just field goals.  Numbers back that up with the team’s top two scoring performances this year coming while Nelson has started.

Another reason the offense has been successful is the running game.  In the last two games, BYU has rushed for 224 and 282 yards.  RB Michael Alisa has added as much fire to the backfield as Nelson.  In the first five games of the season, Alisa rushed for a total of two yards on three attempts.  In the last two games, he has totaled 175 yards on 36 carries averaging 4.9 YPC.  It would be next to impossible to find a BYU fan that anticipated the most successful backfield this season involving Nelson and Alisa.

Big XII Rumors Continue
Just when it looked like BYU’s Big XII chances were out the window, the rumors have grown legs once again with Missouri’s probable exit from the current 9-team conference (TCU joining will make it 10).  If Mizzou does decide to leave, it opens, yet again, another spot to fill.  Big East teams are on the rumor radar as well as the Cougars.  The latest from BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe during an interview with BYUtv before the BYU v Oregon State game: BYU is still in discussions with the Big XII and have not rejected an offer because they have not yet received one.  With so many unconfirmed sources, it’s hard to really know what’s going on.  But the rumors are definitely back.

Injury Bug
It seemed as though a BYU player went down just about every series against Oregon State last week.  So who exactly will be missing time this week?  TE Richard Wilson tore an ACL against the Beavers and had to have knee surgery which means he is done for the year.  DE Mike Muehlmann, who originally came to BYU as a tight end, will go back to his primary position in place of Wilson.

LB Jordan Pendleton, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, will play this week.  DL Hebron Fangupo suffered an ankle injury last week but should be able to play against ISU.  Fellow lineman, Romney Fuga (knee) should also be good to go.  Track star turned linebacker, Ziggy Ansah, has a sprained MCL and is listed as questionable.  Safety Mike Hague suffered a bloody nose, no break though, so he will be good to play.

Matchup and Prediction
Idaho State is on a four-game losing streak in which they have totaled 46 yards on 91 rush attempts.  Look for the Bengals to throw the ball – a lot.  BYU’s ruthless run defense will negate any running game ISU attempts.  The Cougar secondary looked vulnerable at times against Oregon State last week though and Idaho State averages 295 yards per game through the air.  If BYU’s defense struggles, it will be here.  Look for BYU try and force ISU to run the ball.

In the end, BYU is simply better in all aspects in the game and it will show when these two teams meet.  Look for BYU to go up early and not look back.  Jake Heaps should get some more playing time with the second team.  BYU wins 41-9.