Each week we plan to bring you an insider’s view for BYU’s opponent. This week we asked five questions of James Cella, the writer of Ute Central for Torn By Sports. Check out the great stuff they are doing there for all you will need to know for week 3.
Academically Ineligible: Let’s talk about Travis Wilson. There were questions at the beginning of the season whether he was ready but you were certain he was going to be ready. Through three games, he has thrown for 845 yards with a 7/3 TD/INT ratio. A 62.5% pass completion is coupled with a 172.6 passer rating and he is also averaging 10.2 yards per carry on 24 carries this season. Is he meeting or exceeding your expectations for this season and can he continue to maintain this level of performance as the Utes enter the difficult part of the season?
Ute Central: Wilson has definitely exceeded my expectations as he’s on pace to have one of the best years in school history at the position. He is really the star and backbone of this team and has truly emerged as the leader this team has desperately missed for the past several years. All the experience he gained last season is starting to pay off as the game is much slower for him compared to how it overwhelmed him as a true freshman. I expect big things from this kid for the next few years.
AI: Just like BYU, Utah is having problems with the offensive line. BYU was able to make some adjustments that, at least for one game, seem to have solved the problem. What is wrong with Utah’s line and what needs to be done to give the offense more time?
UC: This offensive line is talented, but they are still gelling and you will notice in each game, they get stronger and stronger as the game progresses. To me that speaks to them wearing down the opposing defensive lineman that aren’t as effective in the second half as they are in the first. Look for them to continue to improve, especially as teams have to worry more and more about Travis Wilson’s ability to make big plays on the ground.
AI: Losing Kenneth Scott seemed to be a huge blow for the Utes, but Sean Fitzgerald has stepped in nicely so far as his replacement. Is this receiving unit going to be able to maintain its production and what do they need to do to be successful against BYU this week?
UC: Losing Scott is a huge blow to this team and I think the Utes might be 3-0 if Scott had been available for the Oregon State game, but as they say, “you play with the guys you’ve got.” This offense is so wide open compared to the “ground’n pound” style of the past two seasons. The receivers has been vastly improved for two reasons: one, they have a quarterback that can deliver the ball with accuracy, two, they have eliminated drops. Last season, dropped passes were a huge concern, this year, they have been much better about making the catch AND getting yards after the catch to produce big plays. These big plays are what really make this offense go.
AI: The defense hasn’t been as good as in years past, but the front seven seem to be holding their own pretty well. The secondary looked awful against Oregon State though. Was that because Mannion was such a proficient passer or is that something that will be a problem for the Utes throughout the entire season?
UC: While watching the game live, I was very critical of the secondary, but upon further review, Mannion was so perfect and accurate that only a freak like Sean Smith would have been able to stop it. Well, that’s probably over the top, but it was clear that Mannion was fantastic. The secondary needs to get better and they will. The biggest concerns about the defensive line is the lack of sacks and turnovers that they need to generate. If they get just one turnover against Oregon St, perhaps we are looking at a 3-0 team. They have to focus on getting those turnovers, pressuring and containing the quarterback.
AI: What is your prediction for Saturday night?
UC: My prediction? It will be another crazy game that will come down to the end. I know BYU is favored by 7, but that has been the case since 2010 and look how things have turned out. Whoever takes care of the ball wins this game. I have to pick Utah in a very high scoring game, 45 – 42. It’s like the WAC all over again.