BYU and Utah State – the battle for second place in the state. BYU is looking to win 2 in a row for the first time this year, while USU is looking to avenge last year’s loss in Provo. Right now the odds makers have USU a 6 point favorite at home – which is almost the same spread when they had BYU 7 point favorites at home against Utah, and we know how that turned out! Let’s hope the trend continues!
There are 2 main keys to BYU winning this game: turnovers and line play.
BYU could get away with 5 turnovers against Middle Tennessee State. That won’t work against the Aggies. Utah State is too aggressive and opportunistic of a team. BYU has to secure the football and not turn it over. It would also help if the BYU defense could generate a couple of turnovers themselves.
Line play is, I think, what is going to win the game for either team. This goes for both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. BYU’s O-line needs to open holes for the running game, and give Taysom Hill enough time to find an open receiver when they do try to throw. If USU’s defensive line can control the line of scrimmage (which I think they can do) it’s going to be a long night for the Cougar offense. The Cougars are ranked 4th in the nation in rushing yards. Utah State is 37th in rushing yards allowed. BYU needs to rush for at least 200 yards in this game to be successful.
Of course, BYU’s defensive line is also going to be a major factor in the game. Can the BYU front 7 put enough pressure on Chuckie Keeton to keep him on his toes and not sit back and get comfortable in the pocket? Along the same thread, can they do it while being disciplined enough to keep him and the running game contained?
The wild card is going to be quarterback play – most importantly in the passing game. Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton has as many incompletions as Taysom Hill has completions. Chuckie is 132-186 for 1362 yards. Taysom is 54-133 for 741 yards. Chuckie has one fewer completion than Taysom has attempts. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: Taysom Hill needs to improve where the passing game is concerned. A 40% completion rate isn’t acceptable. That number needs to come up to at least 50% for the Cougars to be effective enough on offense.
So what do I think is going to happen? My heart says BYU 24 USU 21, but if I were in Vegas with money on the line, I’d say USU 27 BYU 21.