1 – What is the biggest hurdle the Cougars will face in the season opener against the Cougars of Washington State? Why?
Mark: I think the defense is going to be just fine with so much speed they should be able to match up well with the air raid Coach Leach is most likely bringing to Provo. If recent history is any indication the offense will go through struggles. As far as the biggest struggle goes I look to the front line. This fall they have had injuries and trouble meeting the physical fitness standards set by the coaches, leading to them receiving fewer reps during camp.
Carl: Containment. BYU’s defense will be amped to prove themselves on the field in live action, ergo, it will be imperative for the defense collectively to not over-pursue or over-commit to any play fakes. Leach has a massive playbook and we can expect him to throw everything at our seasonally untested defense. A couple of easy touchdowns from mental breakdowns will keep WSU in the game.
Matt: Leach has nothing to lose on Thursday and because of that, I feel he is going to throw the entire playbook at the Cougars. Our offense may struggle but they’ll be fine as this WSU defense is nearly non-existent. Defensively, the Cougars in Blue will need to be assignment-sound. I think the linebackers that drop in coverage along with the corners will need to be engaged on every down. Because the WSU offensive line will be subjugated to a persistent bull rush from all angles, Jeff Tuel won’t have time for 3, 5, and 7 step drops and we’ll see a lot of quick out passes at the line of scrimmage. Bend, don’t break won’t be an option.
2 – Two-part question. 1st – Which team unit has the most to prove heading into week 1 and why? 2nd – Will more fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium be watching football on the field or on the new scoreboards?
Mark: The secondary has been lauded as one of the fastest ever at BYU and they will be given numerous opportunities to stop the pass and make open-field tackles. Washington State will bring lots of talent at WR but not much experience. Look to the secondary to prove themselves by taking advantage of the inexperience.
As far as the video board I am extremely excited and can only assume I will get stuck watching live football on it from time to time like a moth in the lights.
Carl: I wanted to go with secondary, because they’ll be seeing a lot of involvement Thursday. However, I’m going with tight ends. And I’m not looking for spectacular achievements. I’m looking for involvement; good route running, finding open space, pass and run blocking and intensity. Showing that this unit can be involved and not be an afterthought for the defense is an understated key to the game.
The new scoreboards rock! Way to go BYU for the massive upgrade. I doubt people will be watching them because there will be plenty of good action on the field. After all, that is what you paid to see, right? Though I’ll send out an APB for fans attending the game to comment on just how great the improvements to the scoreboard really are.
Matt: I’m going to change it up a bit and go with the running backs and here is why. Everyone keeps hearing how they are now unproven, even starter Michael Alisa. Because BYU will want to play keep away from the Air Raid, ball control will be paramount for accomplishing this goal. Alisa, along with Adam Hine and Jamaal Williams, will be necessary to keep the ball away from the potency of Mike Leach’s offense.
I know I’ll be sucked into the awesomeness that will be the new scoreboards, but this Cougar fan watches the action on the field.
3 – Which return missionary or newcomer are you most excited to see this year and why?
Mark: I am very excited that Craig Bills is back. Bills was a starter as a true freshmen and played in all 13 games. I look to him to take full advantage of every play he is in.
Carl: By newcomer, I’m assuming freshmen here. I’m going with Jamaal Williams. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how much time he’ll see on the field, but the kid is athletic and talented. He wants to contribute early and often. We all hope we see moments of brilliance from him than will give the fans confidence for the future of the running back position. We also hope that he learned some lessons from O’Neill Chambers on staying humble when things don’t go the way you want them when you want them.
Matt: There aren’t a lot to get excited about. Bills and Williams would be the easy choices for me. However, I think I’ll be most interested to see how the coaches end up using Taysom Hill this season as we always have an eye on that 2013 schedule.
4 – Riley Nelson is the unquestioned leader of this offense in 2012. What are your expectations for him on August 30?
Mark: I fully expect him to make the plays he has in the past and hold his teammates accountable for every play. Riley knows this is his last season at BYU and I fully expect him to play to win every game.
Carl: Tons of 1st down conversions with his legs and arm. Expect him to be a game manager. Honestly, his stat line should look pretty lackluster, other than the fact that he will have an 80% completion rate and will account for 15+ first downs. Less than 200 yards passing is perfectly acceptable for the game. Please Riley, play within the flow of the game and everything will be fine. 16-20, 182 yds, 2 TD, 13 rush for 68 yds.
Matt: I think for this season to be a success, Nelson will need to throw for about 3000 yards and that means averaging 250/week. This week I expect 250 in the air, but because of the need for ball control, I think he’ll get that in big chunks and you won’t see him complete more than 15-18 passes. He has to limit turnovers and panicky decisions. I’m okay with him throwing away the ball. I think the biggest leadership aspect he’ll need to manage is just as Mark suggested; hold his teammates accountable when they don’t do things right.
Carl: BYU- 38 WSU- 32- However, if the aforementioned Riley Nelson and the offense can effectively control clock and manage the game, it won’t be as close as that. People will be able to look at Time of Possession to determine who won this game. If BYU is 37+, they’ll probably win going away. It’s hard for me to say that the passing game will be used heavily. That will depend on how effective the run game can be against WSU’s front 7. If the run game is working(which would bring in the 37+ TOP), this game will get messy. However, I think there are enough wrinkles in Leach’s book to keep BYU at bay defensively for the 1st half.
Matt: I mentioned earlier ball control. Playing keep away from Jeff Tuel and Marquess Wilson will be so vitally important for the Cougars in Blue. I expect BYU will give a heavy dose of running and short, underneath throws to start the game and then as they suck the secondary in, Nelson will take some shots over the top. But no matter how you look at it, Washington State is going to score a lot of points – possibly the most points BYU’s defense will give up all season. My final prediction is actually the same as Carl’s – BYU 38 WSU 32.