BYU and Utah State have a few things in common: A rich Mormon heritage, ice cream that can ease the pain of another DTR, and official school colors, to name a few. But this year we add a new item to the list: A good football team with a staunch, stingy defense.
BYU's defense is ranked No. 5 in the nation, allowing just 226 yards a game from opposing offenses. In scoring defense, BYU is even better. The Cougs give up just 10 points a game. And even that number is too high, as some of the points scored against BYU have come from opposing defenses (thank you, Riley Nelson).
Utah State isn't too far behind. Their defense is ranked No. 11, and they give up only 280 yards per contest. In scoring defense, the Ags are No. 18, giving up just over 14 points a game.
Clearly, moving the ball for either team is going to be about as easy as branding a Holstein during mating season. At least according to the numbers.
Offensively, this will be the biggest test for both teams. Utah State's offense is ranked 42, while BYU is lagging behind at 64. UNLV (No. 80) and Washington State (No. 84) are the best offenses the Aggies and Cougars have faced this year, respectively.
To beat Utah State, BYU will have to neutralize Kerwynn Williams, and force Chuckie Keeton to stay in the pocket. The Chuck is most dangerous when he extends plays, and he runs like a mink. The Cougs will have to keep a steely eye on him.
On the other hand, the Aggies don't exactly know what they're up against with BYU. Will Riley Nelson start, or will it be the talented Taysom Hill? Taysom is faster, stronger and has a better arm, but he lacks experience. A healthy Riley Nelson is our best shot at a win, but he's probably not healthy.
Regardless, USU is most likely going to stack the box and make our QBs throw the ball downfield. We haven't been able to do that this season.
Now, the prediction.
It's going to be a tough game tonight, guys. One that I've been struggling with all week. I want to pick BYU to win, but every time I think about putting it down on paper I feel sick to my stomach. Utah State is a well-coached team, and they play with emotion. They remember how we stole a win from them last year, and they'll be hungry. Their bellyfire is complemented by a cache of good players on both sides of the ball.
BYU has more talent, strength and speed than the Aggies. Our defense is better; we simply do not let opposing offenses get in the end zone. And our offense could be superb, if we only had a QB who could pass the ball consistently. Every week we expect them to break through, and this very well could be the week.
So here we are. Two great teams. One needs to win, one needs to lose. And the final score will be...
Utah State: 14
Yep. I feel good about that.