The below is a guest post from Dereck Smith, (A BYU fan who reads and comments on TornBySports)
My predictions for what will happen in this year’s version of the BYU vs. Utah rivalry game fall into three categories: “Probably”, “I think so”, and “Who knows? (Hopefully me)”
1) “Probably.” This group (as the name probably hints at) includes things that are probably or most likely going to happen. Only in extreme circumstances (which admittedly occur with some regularity in this game) will these predictions go awry.
A) The BYU defense will stop the Utes attempted running “attack”. BYU’s defensive dominance from last year, especially against the run, has continued this year.
The University of Virginia averaged 2.6 yards per carry (ypc) against the Cougars. Against Oregon, they averaged 3.2 ypc. Texas averaged 3.4 ypc against BYU (even though the Cougars only played two down linemen the entire second half). The Longhorns this year are currently averaging 6.1 ypc against all teams not named BYU.
Utah only averaged 3.4 ypc against Utah State, and while they did average 6.7 ypc against Oregon State, that number isn’t nearly as impressive as it first seems. The Utah running backs only averaged 4.5 ypc. For comparison Eastern Washington’s running backs in their season opener against Oregon State averaged 4.4 ypc.
In the Oregon State game Travis Wilson did run for 142 yards and 3 TDs, but that is more likely a function of the Beaver Defense who gave up 107 rushing yards and 2 TD to Eastern Washington’s QB, Vernon Adams. In support of this supposition are Wilson’s rushing stats against Utah State. Against the Aggies Wilson ran the ball eight times for a grand total of nine yards.
BYU has a great rush defense. Utah’s run game is solid, just no nearly as solid as the Cougar front seven. Something has to give (or in this case, not give).
B) Travis Wilson will complete multiple deep passes to Dres Anderson. Anderson is averaging 26.3 yards per catch and has had a reception of at least 49 yards in each of the Utes three games this season. While I like the Cougar corners, they are clearly the weak point of this BYU defense. Po Vey is simply to slow to stay up with the faster receivers on seam routes. Daniel has the potential, but lacks the experience and as a result he makes mistakes that allow him to get beat deep at times. Wilson has the arm, and Anderson the legs, to take advantage of these weaknesses.
2) “I think so”. In this category go the things I think will likely happen, but in the madness that is the rivalry could easily go awry.
A) BYU will have success running the ball. They aren’t going to run for 550 yards, but I think that they will at least exceed 200 yards on the ground. Obviously much hangs on the offensive line, but they were very good last week and I don’t see them regressing. The Utes will be better prepared than Texas was, especially regarding Taysom Hill, but the best they will be able to do will be to slow down the Cougar rushing attack and decrease the numbers of big plays.
It is one thing to have a plan for what you are going to do once you get punched in the mouth. It is quite another to execute it (or even remember) after taking a shot on the chin.
B) The Utes will use large quantities of short passes to take advantage of the large cushion the Cougar corners will be giving the Ute receivers. Erickson is no fool. He’s seen how much room Daniel and Po Vey gave the Texas wide outs. We can expect a lot of quick passes to Utah’s outside receivers in order to take advantage of that large cushion and also to attempt to take BYU’s formidable front seven out of the game.
C) Travis Wilson is going to get hit… a lot. Against Texas BYU recorded four sacks, but knocked down the QB at least another eight times in passing situations. These weren’t a QB running, protecting himself from hits. These hits came while or just after the QB threw the ball and ended up knocking David Ash out of the game. Wilson is a big kid at 6’6″ 240lbs, but getting rocked while you are trying to throw a football is never fun.
3) “Who knows? (Hopefully me)” These items are what I think are going to happen, but lack some of the evidences and certainties that the events in the other categories posses.
A) Cody Hoffman will have over 100 receiving yards, but no more than five receptions. Hoffman is a ways from 100% which is a worry, but we saw what a hobbled Hoffman could do last week against Texas. He was targeted 3 times. One pass was nowhere near him. On the other two, Cody made very difficult grabs on deep balls for over 30 yards a piece. What will a healthier Hoffman be able to do against Utah’s struggling corners? Of course on the other hand, Hoffman is still hurt and will likely see only limited playing time and a lot of seam routes in consideration of his injury, so I don’t think he is going to have more than five receptions.
B) Hill will see a significant increase in his completion percentage. Of course considering that he is only completing one out of every three passes so far this season makes this no great accomplishment, but I’m expecting around 50%+ against Utah. He has shown he can do it. He completed 67% of his passes against Utah State last year, who was a top 20 defense. He’s had two weeks to prepare and fix things. Almost as importantly, the receivers also have had two weeks of Coach Holliday’s gentle correction and instruction in regards to their frequent drops. Then add in a Utah defense that has given up 757 passing yards, seven passing touchdowns, and has come away with zero interceptions in their two games against FBS competition, and you get a solid improvement in completion percentage and probably TDs and INTs as well.
C) Utah gets at least one big turnover/special teams play. This is in here simply because they seem to do it almost every year.
D) BYU wins the game. BYU brings in a great defense. The Utes will struggle to run the ball and will be forced to become one dimensional. They will find some success with a short outside passing game and a couple of shots down field, but the accumulating hits on Wilson will take their toll on the young Ute QB, and they will be unable to keep up with the fast and at least moderately steady BYU offense. BYU wins 27-24.