1 – Since Harvey Unga left the school, BYU hasn’t had a featured running back. In their last 15 contests they haven’t even had a 100 yard rusher. Is it concerning to you and do you think BYU will be successful without one?
Carl: Inquiring minds want to know why BYU hasn’t given Alisa more of the running pie yet? There are two general reasons as to why we haven’t had a 100-yard runner; 1- lack of outstanding talent 2- running quarterback. Running qb is not changing soon and the depth of rb’s won’t change unless the coaches unleash the lions and see what a feature back can do for their team. It would be a struggle to compete at the highest levels without a substantial running game.
Matt: I’m not super concerned about a 100 yard rusher but I am a little bit. However, I don’t think this is the week to force that issue either. A 100 yard rusher needs to be able to do his work between the tackles and the Utes defensive front line is not that one to bang your hat on. This week I need to see some attacking up front, between the tackles, and such, but I expect to see a lot of speed attempting to make the ends so watch for a lot of Jamaal Williams and David Foote mixing with JD Falslev. Carl is right about Riley Nelson but I hope Brandon Doman dials back the planned runs for him and that Riley stands tall. That being said, Nelson needs to be protected and to protect himself. Brett Hein at vanquishthefoe.com gave a great breakdown and what could cause Cougar fans some concern if this line can’t move the push forward and open some holes for our running game. But I digress. I don’t think this has as much to do with lack of talent (I firmly believe Alisa could do it) as much as an inability of the offensive line to win the line of scrimmage.
2 – What is the most important key to the BYU/Utah game that will ensure a BYU victory regardless of other aspects to the game?
Carl: This one will encompass multiple stats and I know I’m going to be right with this. Average starting field position. Whichever team wins this will win the football game. I’ve been discussing this week with others that I believe it will be a punt-heavy and turnover-heavy weekend. The key will be don’t let those turnovers happen on your own 10 yard line. Short fields will be a blessing in this religious grudge match.
Matt: Line play on both sides of the ball for both teams. Can BYU win the line of scrimmage on offense and can they get pressure on defense? Can Utah’s defensive line continue to swallow up running back and get pressure on the QB and can the offensive line protect whoever is taking snaps? Other aspects are much as Carl outlined: average starting field position, the turnover battle, and clock management.
Fan Question from @crackalacka22: How confident are BYU fans and players heading into this game?
Carl: So not confident…I don’t care if Wynn is retired and the Utes do have injuries, I won’t be confident until we’re up 30 or the clock strikes zero and we’re ahead. Preseason, I went all religious on the Dog and Deuce Show episode 83? stating that Utah’s defense could compete with SEC teams. Notwithstanding the chinks in the armor from last week, I believe they’re every bit as advertised and would love to showcase that against a top 25 team the week after getting embarrassed.
Matt: It seems strange to say but I think I’d be more confident had Utah not lost last weekend. I think that will fire them up plus you can never discount the nature of the rivalry. Utah’s defense is still elite, but can it truly keep the Utes in the game or even overcome offensive deficiencies in order to win a game? I don’t know. For the players, I couldn’t tell you if they are confident or not. I hope they are confident in themselves but watch how the arrogance and haughtiness of Ute Nation caught them unprepared last week. I know I’m going to catch flack for that last comment so let me just preemptively parry it with John White IV’s own words: “It’s devastating, because we lost to a team that’s not even in the Pac-12. To lose to Utah State is horrible.” BYU cannot be anything more than prepared for this game or they will lose. I’d like to play the revenge card here, but I just can’t. BYU hasn’t shown to me that in recent history that it is anything more to them than a news media byline. So BYU will have to win this game on the field. As a fan, I’m about 60-40 on the confidence scale. So much has to go right for either team to win. I think BYU wants and needs this game more than Utah does and if they’ve given themselves to feel superior to any other non-league team in only their second year of PAC-12 membership, then they will be more worried about next week against Arizona State and not so much on BYU.
Carl: As usual, I’m not predicting a repeat of last year’s ‘rollover’ let down by BYU. I’m going back to the normal side of the spectrum with this game being a nail-biter as usual. BYU should outgain the Utes in statistical categories, but watch out for the untimely turnover, muffed punt, drive continuing penalty, etc. These could prove costly for the Cougars. I had them losing preseason, but I’m pulling a Mitt Romney and flopping. The uncertainty on Utah’s offense will prove to be a bit much for Brian Johnson. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they won. BYU- 26 Utah 24
Matt: The game starts out slow as each team pokes around at the other’s defense trying to find an opening. First score either way will come off a special teams mistake. I would expect BYU will pressure Hays to force him to make quick reads and get the ball out quick. BYU may jump out to an early 10-0 lead but Utah will claw back and this game will be close until the end. BYU will come out victorious 17-14.