Talk about a challenge…BYU faces Boise State on 5 days rest on the Smurf Turf after taking an atomic body blow after losing to rival Utah last Saturday. How will BYU prepare on short notice to face the Broncos?
Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall vs. Chris Petersen
Petersen has done nothing to make Bronco Nation lose confidence in his abilities about recruiting new talent post Kellen Moore era. He’s got the edge in this battle, but it could be argued that he has less experience and talent to work with than BYU. He’s won the bigger games on bigger stages, and is his squad is currently ranked after being MAC’s very own Miami of Ohio. Bronco has a ‘Faith-building’ challenge getting his ‘Band of Brothers’ to buy-in to his system the rest of the year after having their collective hearts ripped out and spit upon by the MUSS last Saturday. Collectively, BYU’s team is more experienced and talented on paper, but mentally, who knows. My inkling is that the team will struggle to maintain focus after the mess at the MUSS and won’t get corrected unless they stay in the ball game first half. At that point, the defense will be in charge of creating that spark. This collective mental illness is not something I think Bronco can do by himself. It will be through team play.
Advantage: Boise State
The Offense Brandon Doman vs. Robert Prince
Boise State is feeling a bit of letdown after being spoiled by Kellen Moore and crew for the last 4 seasons. Losing to a good Michigan State team, only scoring 13 points, and then struggling in the first half of their win against Miami of Ohio, the offense is not yet up to par, and it may be sometime before they get back to the elite previous level. Joe Southwick leads the offense at quarterback. He found some rhythm in the second half of last week’s game, eventually throwing for more than 300 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did however throw an interception in the endzone. But if he figures out how to play with the hand he’s dealt, the Broncos can be very balanced offensively. DJ Harper is a great looking running back and Matt Miller leads a bevy of wide receivers at Southwick’s disposal.
BYU is struggling themselves. It was painful at times watching the deficiencies of their offense last weekend. But three things seem to be aassured for the Cougars. First, Riley Nelson will compete hard and fight to the end. Second, Cody Hoffman will be unstoppable. Third, Kaneakua Friel will continue to be an integral part of the offense. What’s not mentioned here, the running game. It must find a well-established presence for the offense to be successful Thursday.
The Defense Bronco Mendenhall vs. Pete Kwiatkowski
Although there is much we don’t know about both of these teams, BYU has shown it’s to be feared on defense. BYU will continually push teams to be one dimensional, primarily to a passing team. How much can you say about Kyle Van Noy? For what he may lack in build, he makes up for in pure quickness and agility. The guy is a complete nightmare for offenses to handle. And with Uona Kaveinga and Brandon Ogletree supporting the linebacking crew, it could be a top 10 trio in college football. Additionally, the coming out party of Ziggy Ansah last week only furthers the quality of the Cougar defense. If there is a weakness at week 4, it would continue to be the secondary, who did give up a long touchdown pass on Saturday.
The Broncos are no slouches. Considering we don’t know the full extent of how good Michigan State really is, the defense did hold the Spartans to just 17 points. Whereas Utah was purely smashmouth, in your face, defense, Boise is more shifty, playing different angles on different plays. They have the ability to confuse an offense by playing a 4-3, 3-4, 4-2-1, or 3-3-1 front 7 formations. Their squad is led by Demarcus Lawrence, who has 2.5 sacks in 2 games.
Boise State has yet to really show how good their kicking game is. Michael Frisina hasn’t been called on to kick in pressure situations and hasn’t made one beyond 30 yards. BYU, well, we’ve seen more than Cougar fans care to see in an entire season. It doesn’t matter Stephenson or Sorenson, both aren’t effective outside 30 yards at this point. How long does Mendenhall stay on the kickers side before opting to just go for it outside the 20 yard line? This could be a crucial key to victory come Thursday.
Advantage: Boise State
I hate to pick with ‘Blue Goggles’ here, but I like BYU here. Despite all the turmoil that’s probably going through the program right now, I think football will be the right outlet for their group of talented players. This could all be smoke too, and we’ll know for sure by halftime. If BYU is down 10+, they won’t be coming back. The first half will need to be dependent upon BYU’s defense and keeping Southwick and Boise State from getting in to rhythm offensively. If they succeed, at that, BYU should win this one. But as they proved last week, things are never as easy as they seem.
BYU 27- Boise St.-24