BYU vs Washington St: What To Watch For

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 30: Riley Nelson #13 of the Brigham Young Cougars throws against the Brigham Young Cougars during the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on December 30, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The overall storyline to tonight's game seems to be Bronco D vs Air Raid. Here are four things I'll be watching specifically:

This one feels obvious. Specifically, a lot should be decided on by how well Jordan Johnson and/or Preston Hadley can handle receiver Marquess Wilson on the outside. The junior has already posted receiving seasons of 1,006 and 1,388 yards. I'd be surprised if either Johnson or Hadley can stop Wilson, but they may need to handle him well enough alone so BYU doesn't have to allocate other resources, pulling them away from other passing lanes. While Wilson will be the obvious best target, other receivers like 6'0" freshman Gabe Marks could do some damage.

The senior has shown the capability of being a quarterback good enough to win games. As a sophomore, Tuel threw for 2,780 yards with a 60% completion rate. But that was two seasons ago. Last year, Tuel went down in the season opener and ended up playing in only three games, throwing 45 total passes. His last game was Oct 22, 2011. This could be compounded by trying to implement Mike Leach's new system. The Air Raid isn't altogether complicated. Washington State could run a total of four different pass plays all night. It's all about timing and reads -- running the same plays and quickly identifying which receiver the defense left open this time. Will Tuel be sharp enough?

Long a perceived strength at BYU, the offensive line has underperformed a bit in the last few years. A new nutrition and training regiment supposedly has the unit ready for a great year. Meanwhile, an in-person look at the Washington State defense revealed a lack of size and speed up the middle for the Crimson Cougars. Put those things together, and BYU should dominate the line of scrimmage tonight. Should.

I'm interested to see if Nelson's decision-making -- not in making reads, but in being responsible with the football -- has improved. Will he continue to make throws into traffic as defenders are pulling him down? Or will he have learned when to take a sack and when to throw the ball away?

Kickoff is soon! Watch for tonight's Game Thread, where you can join fellow Cougar fans in discussion throughout the game.

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