BYU Football Game 11 Preview – BYU at San Jose State

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How do you possibly preview a game when historically, one team has owned the other recently, but the other is having better year than they’ve had in decades?  If BYU had been anything but inconsistent on offense this year, I wouldn’t hesitate writing down a W in pen right now. Yet, inconsistency has been BYU’s lone consistency this season, so it leaves me equivocating on where I stand with this game.  Okay, lets cut to the chase shall we? You all know I’m projecting a win, so let me dispense with my theatricality and show you how BYU gets it done on Saturday.

How they match up:

BYU Cougars

San Jose State Spartans

Stat Rank Stat Rank
225.1 Passing 70th 325.8 Passing 9th
171.6 Rushing 51st 118.9 Rushing 108th
28.6 Points 64th 35.1 Points 32nd
14.2 Allowed 7th 20 Allowed 25th
Passing yards/game     Rushing yards/game     Points scored/game     Points allowed/game

Coaching: Bronco Mendenhall vs. Mike MacIntyre

MacIntyre is a defensive-minded coach like Mendenhall is, with a journeyman history of stops throughout his career, both in the NFL and the biggest of stages in college football as well. He took over the team in 2010 and ended with a 1-12 record.  Last season, he added 4 wins to that total for a 5-7 2011.  This season, the Spartans are 8-2 and only 0.50 games behind the co-leaders that are Louisiana Tech and Utah State.

Last season, the Spartans came to Provo to play the Cougars and gave BYU all it could handle before the boys in blue were able to finally come away with a win. What will happen this year when BYU heads to San Jose and has to play in front of “the worst fans in FBS?”  (They averaged fewer than 20,000 fans per game last season, less than 66% capacity.)

Both teams are looking to finish their respective seasons on a considerable winning streak and this will be a hard-fought game.

Prediction: Push

BYU Offense vs. SJSU Defense

Let me start with some comparative stats.

BYU Offense San Jose State Defense
Stat Rank Stats Stat Rank
225.1 69th Passing Yards/Game 191.5 20th
171.6 51st Rushing Yards/Game 133.9 30th
28.6 63rd Points/Game 20.0 25th
67th Total Offense/Defense 21st
396.7 67th Total Yards/Game 325.4 21

San Jose has a solid defense all around.  In their two losses this year, the victor beat them very differently.  Stanford did it with defense, but Utah State did it with offense.  I think BYU can do it both ways, and they will need it.  In Utah State’s win, they were balanced with a pass/run split of 35/24.  Chuckie Keeton tossed three touchdowns while Kerwyn Williams added three on the ground.  Keeton also utilized 10 different receivers.

Likewise, Brandon Doman will have to call with similar balance and efficiency, but the onus is on Riley Nelson and his ability to be efficient with the ball.  He’ll have to spread it around. I liked watching him find reasons to stay in the play long enough to pass it when the play broke down last week and I hope he does it against the Spartans.  Jamaal Williams will be called upon again all game long and won’t be sitting before halftime of this contest.  Cody Hoffman will undoubtedly have a good game once again but Ross Apo needs to continue to be involved and JD Falslev and Kaneakua Friel will need to be more involved as well.

The Spartans best defense is their offense controlling the ball. BYU needs to hang onto the ball for long periods of time and eat up the time that David Fales and company are on the field.  If Doman can stay balanced and Nelson can stay efficient, Doman can win this match up.  I don’t see anything special about this group except they are solid when they need to be.

BYU Defense vs. SJSU Offense

Again, lets start with the stats shall we?

BYU Defense San Jose State Offense
Stat Rank Stats Stat Rank
172.2 10th Passing Yards/Game 325.8 9th
92.3 4th Rushing Yards/Game 118.9 105th
13.5 7th Points/Game 35.1 31st
4th Total Offense/Defense 36th
264.5 4th Total Yards/Game 444.7 36th

Quarterback David Fales has completed 244 passes for over 3000 yards and 25 touchdowns this year to only seven interceptions.  He spreads the ball around; six different receivers have over 20 catches on the year and eight different receivers have a touchdown grab this season.  They have nearly as many carries this season as passes (350/354) but are not incredibly efficient as they have a 3.4 average gain/carry.  Which is too bad because that disparity in efficiency is the exact opposite of what BYU would like to see.

Bronco Mendenhall will need to keep his guys focused all game long. They could spend a lot more time on the field than they would like to and fatigue could set in.  Since running the ball is not the forte of this offense, the defensive front line will need to get pressure quickly to disrupt this offense. In the opener against Stanford, Fales was sacked 13 times and BYU will need to be similarly aggressive.

Unfortunately, I feel that Mendenhall’s defensive backfield will be up to the task of defending this offensive attack. But the one place I do like them is in the red zone. I think if BYU can prevent the big play and force the Spartans to score from a shortened field, the advantage swings to Bronco’s guys.

This game may end up a track meet and that favors the Spartans.  BYU may need to come up with a defensive score, but at the very least, they HAVE to win the turnover battle.  I think they will.  The front line will harass Fales into quick decisions that will play into the speedy linebacking corp.’s hands.  Riley Nelson will need to be efficient with the ball and the offensive line will need to help Jamaal Williams open up running lanes.

BYU 31

SJSU 27

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