Texas at BYU: The Way Too Early . . . .

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MajorWhen BYU lines up against Texas on September 7, it will be Major Applewhite’s third game as offensive coordinator. Will he be effective against Bronco Mendenhall’s defensive schemes or will the 35 year old, first year OC be too overwhelmed and over-matched in Provo.

Carl: That’s a tough call.  On the one hand, most offensive coordinators struggle through their first year, as we’ve seen close to home.  Then again, there’s very little tape on a new offensive coordinator, which poses a preparation problem for BYU’s defense.  You have to figure each team will have their opportunities to impact the game, on both sides of the ball.

Matt: If Brandon Doman and Brian Johnson found it difficult to be a young first-year offensive coordinator at BYU and Utah, I can only imagine it will be that much more difficult for Applewhite at Texas.  The difference though is drastic because his lack of experience can be helped by the plethora of talent at the skill positions that is returning.  However, his first year is going to hinge nearly exclusively on the arm of David Ash.  If Ash can’t step up and be the quarterback the Longhorns need him to be, it will be a rough first year for the 35-year old.

Mike: Las Vegas released some early 2013 college football point spreads this week.  Texas vs. BYU was one of the lines.  The bad news is BYU is a 7.5 underdog at home to Texas.  The good news is BYU is a 3 point favorite at UVA and a 7.5 favorite at home vs. Utah.  BYU and Utah fans can attest to the challenges of breaking in a new offensive coordinator.  Just because you are a good college quarterback doesn’t guarantee you know how to call plays or execute a game plan on the road.  Texas is perennially high in recruiting so Applewhite should have plenty of athletic firepower to play with. 2012 leading rusher Johnathan Grey is a big part of Applewhite’s arsenal.  Rivals ranked Gray the #1 high school RB in the country in 2012.  Grey split time with sophomore Malcolm Brown who was ranked the #1 RB prospect in 2011.  That’s right; BYU will be facing the top two running back prospects over the last two years.  I don’t remember the last time BYU faced a backfield this talented.  The good news is blue chip recruits don’t always turn into great college players.  Just ask Ben Olson or Harvey Langi.  More good news is this will be Texas’ first 2013 road game and even the most avid Ute fan will tell you that LES and its 65,000 zoobs make calling plays very difficult.

AshDavid Ash has struggled in games against big-time opponents.  Is BYU “big-time” enough that they can get inside his head or will he show us that BYU is still not ready to compete in the Big XII?

Carl: Much like Taysom Hill on the other side, offenses will be game-planned to keep the QB successful.  Look for a pace that Ash and Applewhite are comfortable with.  The game will be played at a quicker pace than two years ago, but not full throttle.  Ash will have more experience this time around and less QB rotation.  Don’t look for standout numbers from Ash, but look for him to manage the game.

Matt: I think BYU fans are going to be loud at this game.  We get the chance to host college football royalty in Provo and we were so close last time that we’ll be out for revenge.  We’ve endured three rough seasons in Cougar Town (not to be confused with the TV show) and we’ve ushered in a new regime (we could say returning, but lets no split hairs.)  Expectations in Provo are always high, it will be the first game, and our collective anxiety for this 2013 Cougar team is going to leave us all screaming like lunatics.  I think the new student section will make it hard for the Longhorns to play from the south endzone and I’m hopeful that Ash will struggle much like Riley Nelson did in Salt Lake last season.

Mike: In 2012 Ash ranked 21st in passing efficiency ahead of Collin Klein (25th), Landry Jones (31st) and Riley Nelson (86th).  Ash will have 3 of his top 4 receivers back in 2013.  Aside from the OU game, Ash played well in most games last year.  Ash’s numbers were actually better on the road than at home in ’12. Big12 fans will tell you their teams are acclimated to playing in very large college football stadiums but the numbers suggest that only UT and OU have larger stadiums then LES.  For this young Texas team stealing a win at BYU will take a “big-time” effort.

BroncoBronco Mendenhall-led teams have historically struggled against big-time teams.  Is BYU ready to face a Texas team this season and then close the game if given the opportunity as they did in 2011?

Carl: It’s been the Achilles heel of BYU for some time now.  I, for one, am pretty irritated that we can’t win the higher caliber games consistently.  Yet, at least Mendenhall has given up his defensive reigns in order to focus on the whole team.  Time to show Cougar Nation what you’re made of, Bronco.  I’m hopeful that by focusing more on the big picture and less on one side of the ball, that he’ll actually find his brain and make better, clearer, decisive decisions.  Not that I’m saying he’s going to be more of a fan pleaser; just that we could see in-game adjustments that are actually noticeable to the fans.

Matt: Will the team be ready? I think they will think they are ready, but I don’t know that it will be the case.  I can’t state that either way to be fair for the team, but the fans will be screaming and fanatical.  If Bronco’s new focus on both sides of the ball leads to a determined focus for both sides as the defense employed last season, then this Texas game will be a lot of fun and potentially a huge win for this squad.

Mike: I was at the 2011 game in Austin.  BYU had a 13-3 lead at halftime and I remember thinking, “BYU has zero running game but the defense is playing well.  Will Bronco and Doman open up the playbook and try to win the game or sit on 13 points until it’s too late?”  BYU sat on 13 points until it was too late, mustering 3 points in the second half.  I took away from that game that BYU had the team to go on the road and beat a good Big12 team.  It was also our first glimpse into how poorly Doman’s offense would look against good teams.  This time around Texas is older and probably better but I believe Bronco’s staff is better equipped.  Bronco needs this game to turn the corner on his off-season coaching overhaul.  Beating Texas also gives Bronco his best win since Oklahoma.

Taysom HillThis will be projected-starter Taysom Hill’s first game against a major opponent. Will he be ready? How does offensive coordinator Robert Anae prepare his young signal caller?

Carl: After one game under Taysom’s belt at Virginia, he’ll have some confidence under Anae’s system and some quality game experience.  Anae will open as much of the playbook as possible to make his system work while keeping Taysom confident.  I don’t have this nervous feeling that things will go wrong. Will there be growing pains? Yes. Will there be a quarterback controversy looming? No. This is for Anae and Hill to work out together. They’ll be fine.

Matt: I think Hill is mature and he’s ready to get going on this.  He showed poise and control in his short playing time in 2012. He’s bright as evidenced by the fact that he was recruited to Stanford before his mission.  I think Jason Beck will work a lot with him leading up to the start of this season to help him be ready and if Hill is capable of putting in the film time and prep time, he’ll be ready.

Mike: Taysom won’t be ready.  Let’s face it, Taysom is a sophomore with 1.5 college games under his belt . . . and his last game ended in a season-ending knee injury.  Not since Jake Heaps has a BYU QB been more hyped.  He’s 6’2 180 lbs., not the 6’7 240 hopeful BYU fans think he is.  He was recruited by Stanford but not considered a blue chip QB by any recruiting publication. He’s being nicknamed the “Mormon Manziel”.  Oh yeah, and his most difficult task is to help Cougar Nation forget about the last two years of pathetic offense. There’s no possible way Taysom can live up to this level of hype.  Hopefully Anae has rebuilt the offensive line and can lean heavily on the stable of stud running backs as Taysom gets the hang of D1 football.  With BYU’s offensive tools Taysom has an extremely bright future at BYU but week two enthusiasm needs to be curbed.

J WillieDefensively, 2012 was a disaster for Texas.  They gave up nearly 30 points per game and were run all over.  They lost a first round safety to the NFL in April.  Who will have a bigger game for BYU and why: Jamaal Williams, Cody Hoffman, or Kyle Van Noy?

Carl: Jamaal Williams.  Anae will need him to run effectively.  Taysom will need him to block and catch safety valve passes.  BYU will need him to show he’s improved from his great coming out party last season.  We all have high hopes for him, and I believe he will showcase his talent by coming up big for the Cougars in this match-up.

Matt: Texas’ defense wasn’t spectacular last season and was really to blame for the lackluster year.  Then they graduated their best players and look to retool and when you’re Texas, that isn’t that hard.  But we’ll be still working on a new quarterback and in Anae’s offense, it seems built to spread the ball.  I expect Hoffman to have a good game, but not great.  I expect Applewhite will scheme to stop KVN who will still be disruptive, but not flashy.  I feel that with the porous interior line play last season and that they are trying out new players in there this year, that game two will be a perfect opportunity for Williams to lead this team in rushing and maybe even receiving.  Watch for the shovel and swing pass to come into play a lot.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mike Alisa get involved a lot as well.

Mike: UT extended defensive coordinator Manny Diaz another year.  Diaz has built nationally ranked defenses at NC State, Middle Tenn. St and Mississippi St.  His scheme is eerily similar to Bronco’s with complex blitzing schemes that rely heavily on good safety play.  Suggesting Texas has another bad defensive year under Diaz is probably a bad idea.  That said, my money would be on Williams having the biggest game vs. Texas.  I believe KVN will be double teamed and Hoffman’s success is connected to how well Taysom plays in week two.  I’m hopeful Anae will use his new, big, physical offensive line to push Diaz’s blitzing defense around.  Bronco’s scheme breaks down when big teams with a big offensive line commit to running the ball a la Oregon State and Notre Dame last year.  Let’s hope Anae exposes the Diaz D the same way.

Can BYU avenge themselves of the 2011 falter and get a win against the second winningest college football team of all time?

Carl: On a home field, they have a great shot.  Given the earliness of game, BYU could stymie a Texas team looking to find it’s footing offensively.  BYU will have chances to score throughout the game; putting together good drives, capitalize on turnovers and short fields.  Let’s hope the BYU kicking game is improved from 2012.  This could come down to a field goal.

Matt: Texas has spent every season since Colt McCoy graduated underachieving to a disturbing level.  BYU shows up at the most random times for big wins but ofter fails to show up for the big game.  My point? Who knows?  I think early season match ups against teams with so man unknowns would typically favor the home team, as it did in 2011 in Austin.  Carl says it may come down to a field goal.  Nick Howell stated that the kicking game will be better.  Lets hope so because I’m not certain Carl is far off.  Either way, I’ll be in the stands as a raving fan to welcome the Longhorns to Provo.

Mike: As I said Vegas has BYU as a touchdown plus underdog at home vs Texas. Texas could be BYU’s toughest opponent in 2013 or they could continue being the most blue chip laden, underachieving team in college football.  I need to see how “Anae Take Two” does at UVA.  If the offense can look sharp and build some confidence they should be able to score points against Texas.  BYU’s defense will have to slow down UT’s athletic backfield and use faith and prayer to stop Ash and his athletic receiving core.  I’m a big Daniel Sorensen fan but projected starter Craig Bills is a mystery.  I also like Jordan Johnson but Mike Hague is a high school running back turned D1 cornerback?? Bronco is going to need some magic with this secondary to stop the better passing games on this brutal schedule.  I’ll be in the stands pulling hard for BYU but beating a more matured Texas team in week 2 will be a tall order.

About the author

Matt Quinney

I'm a BYU guy and I'm not going to apologize for my opinions, but I also am a graduate of the University of Utah so my allegiances go both ways. I've been a sports fan as long as I can remember and when I blog, you'll see a lot of Cougars, some Jazz and Utes, and an occasional post about RSL or even the Dallas Cowboys.