I’m coming at this week a little differently than normal. Why? you might ask. Well, this is not a typical week. After all, it isn’t every week that a top ten team rolls into Provo. But Oregon State isn’t your typical top ten team. In fact, this might be the softest top ten team you may ever see. The 8th ranked passing team in the country is also the 92nd ranked scoring team, something that is very atypical of this sort of a team. But more importantly, Beaver starting quarterback, Sean Mannion, on whom the whole offense goes, was lost last week to his own season-ending knee surgery and a quarterback who hasn’t taken a meaningful snap in two years will take the reins.
Cody Vaz will be under center for the Beavers at 1:30 PM local time on a regionally televised ABC game with your Cougars. What to expect from the Beavers though is the mystery here. Will they run the ball and keep it simple for the new signal caller or will they continue to throw the ball all over the field knowing that BYU is the top-ranked rushing defense in the land?
BYU, on the other hand, will have to adjust its game plan that it has been running all season. That’s because running, isn’t going to continue to cut it anymore. Riley Nelson, if in fact healthy, can’t keep taking the punishment of a lot of running; he will have to pass the ball. That is for two reasons: 1 – Oregon State is the 106th ranked passing defense in the country. 2 – OSU is the 4th ranked rushing defense. Something will have to give and considering it has been BYU’s offensive line giving way to defensive lineman and rushing linebackers all season, it stands to reason that BYU will have to throw the ball.
This is going to be a defensive battle for the full 60 minutes.
BYU Offense vs. Oregon State Defense
BYU’s offense is averaging 25.8 points per game while Oregon State’s defense is only allowing 17 ppg. However, in two of BYU’s three previous contests, they only have scored 12 points total. That probably has more to do with a reportedly broken back and a freshman quarterback with a limited understanding of the playbook as much as anything.
BYU comes in averaging 209 yards/game while Oregon State ranked 106th in passing defense, allowing 286 yards/game. Last year, Nelson threw for 217 yards on this defense, one of which was the highlight reel, one-handed grab by Cody Hoffman as he was falling down. If the Cougars are to find any success on Saturday, they must pass the ball. BYU will need long, sustained drives and will need first downs. However, there are flaws to this element, chief of which is Beaver cornerback Jordon Poyer (he had three interceptions last week against the Cougars of Washington State) and coupling that with Nelson’s limited throwing ability, it could make for a tougher game plan that we as fans would like. However, despite the strength of the cornerbacks, the safeties are not a strength on this team and the Beavers allow 57% of passes to be completed at a whopping 11.79 yards/completion. They’ve allowed an average of two touchdowns per game this season and five of eight were tosses, so BYU will need to not only pass the ball this week, they’ll need to put it in the end zone via the passing game.
In the aftermath of Nelson’s injury, Hoffman and tight end Kaneakua Friel have been forgotten. Expect big things from both of them as well as speed inside receiver JD Falslev. Unfortunately, that means Ross Apo probably goes back to neglected status in this offense though.
Benchmark for success: Riley Nelson needs to be at about 20 completions and 225 yards and a touchdown pass. He can get away with at most one turnover this week and still be successful.
If you think BYU’s rushing defense is good (you’d be right since they are #1 in the country), OSU is only slightly behind at #4 overall. They allow only 67.25 yards/game and by comparison, BYU allows 59.50.) They’ve only allowed three rushing scores this season and their core defensive lineman will be ready to go as they expect to play more traditional defense than the nickel and dime they’ve employed the past few weeks. Between linemen Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo and middle linebackers Kevin Unga (twin to BYU’s #45 Uani Unga) and Reuben Robinson, the running game is going to be tough to get going this week. BYU’s offensive line will have to dig in to find a way to provide some lanes for freshman speedster Jamaal Williams to run through. BYU really may need to scheme for some solid pocket protection this week and use the pass to set up the run.
Benchmark for success: Williams needs 20+ carries, 85+ yards, and a score this week (although the running score can come from Nelson or possibly rugby transfer Paul Lasike and they will be fine.)
BYU Defense vs. Oregon State Offense
Oregon State comes into LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday highly, but awkwardly ranked. They have the 8th best passing offense in the land at 339.5 yards/game but as the 93rd ranked scoring offense. For an offense averaging 460 yards/game, the gap between yards/game and points/game should be much smaller. And to complicate the matter, Cody Vaz, redshirt junior, will be getting his first meaningful action since 2010 where he threw for 48 yards. He’s shorter by 5” to Sean Mannion which will cause issues with seeing over both sides on the line of scrimmage. Adding to the problems for this offense, they come to LES to face the 5th ranked defense in the country that sports the 12th best passing defense, the 1st ranked rushing defense, 1st ranked red zone defense, and the 3rd ranked scoring defense that also happens to have a 13 quarter scoreless streak on the line as well. This isn’t a defense to be messed with. BYU is averaging a concession of one TD/game this season and three of those have not even been this defense’s fault at all.
Kyle Van Noy, Spencer Hadley, Ziggy Ansah and the rest of the front seven pals will cause havoc all game long for this Beaver offense that will be trying to protect Vaz in his first start. There will be a noticeable let down in excitement and energy from this team as it realizes that its chance at a special season went down with Mannion. And with this week being the first one up, how can you blame them? BYU doesn’t allow many big plays on defense but more telling is the 40% scoring rate they allow in the red zone. With the four red zone scores allowed this season, it comes out pretty even with two rushing (to Weber State from short-field mistakes that were capitalized on), one pass to Utah (after the long punt return) and one field goal. BYU only allows 169.8 yards passing/game and as previously mentioned 59.5 rushing yards/game. That is almost 50% fewer total yards/game than OSU is getting right now and with an inexperienced quarterback taking his first snap; it’s more likely that BYU’s defense lives to its potential than Oregon State’s does to its own.
Benchmarks for success: BYU at its average of three sacks, eight tackles for loss, under 300 yards total offense allowed, plus two turnovers.
I like BYU to continue its streak of not allowing a touchdown once again this week while Riley Nelson will get BYU to two touchdowns. I know that it’s a bit cheeky to presume BYU will score twice but only get 13 points but I have zero faith in this kicking game right now and I think with Justin Sorensen so far inside his head, he doesn’t believe in himself anymore.
BYU will struggle and it will be another “ugly” game by BYU standards, but BYU will get some success via the passing game and the defense will fly around the field. BYU will win this game in an “ugly” fashion 13-6.