BYU is looking for a win after losing two close games in just five days. After consecutive home wins against Washington State and Weber State, the Cougars dropped road games at Utah (24-21) and at Boise (7-6). The Warriors are coming to Provo on Friday this week, with kickoff coming at 6pm MT.
What we know about Hawaii (1-2)
The Warriors' 2011 season ended with a home loss to BYU, which put Hawaii at 6-7 on the season and out of bowl contention. In that game, the Warriors played the Cougars pretty well through halftime, taking a 13-10 lead into the locker room. But the Cougars rallied in the third quarter, scoring 4 unanswered touchdowns en route to a 41-20 victory. The Warriors' 6 wins last season were Colorado, UC Davis, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Idaho, and Tulane...so...draw your own conclusions about how good they were. This year's version of the Warriors had a big win over Lamar (of the Southland conference), but big losses to USC and Nevada. They are BYU's weakest opponent until the soft November schedule begins.
What we know about BYU (2-2)
What do we know about the Cougars? The offense is not playing anywhere near its talent level. That's a combination of refusing to bench an injured quarterback, an offensive line that has major consistency issues, and questionable play calling (I'm looking at you WEAK-SIDE OPTION). The defense is actually playing above expectations. These guys are a legitimate top 10 defense. Case and point: holding Chris Petersen's Boise State Broncos scoreless after they recovered a BYU fumble on the 1 yard line. In the end, this BYU team is literally a few inches (doinked FG) and one tipped pass (2 pt conversion attempt) from being 4-0...sure, the FG only gets us to overtime, but I liked our chances! The Cougars can still have a great season, but they could also have an awful season. It really comes down to whether or not the offense can get it together and play football.
Keys to the game
Quarterback Quandary. This shouldn't be an issue. If Riley isn't healthy, he shouldn't be playing. He accounted for 4 of BYU's 5 turnovers last week, and had better passing stats to Boise State than to BYU. Until Riley is 100%, Taysom Hill should be starting in his place. BYU coaches stubbornly left Riley in the game too long against Boise, and it cost the game. Hopefully they don't make the mistake with the season.
The Rush Attack. I don't care who your quarterback is, he shouldn't be your leading rusher. Taysom Hill provided more rushing yards against Boise State than all of the Cougar running-backs combined...and he didn't play very much of that game. Lack of rushing production is largely due to the offensive line, which has failed to open up the running lanes needed for sizable gains. Last note - Jamaal Williams needs more touches. He only carried the ball once against Boise, for 6 yards. The Cougar yards-per-carry average for RBs that day was only 2.5.
Special Teams. We've got a great punter in Riley Stephenson. We have a consistently inconsistent FG kicker in Justin Sorensen. I wish we would have open tryouts to try and find someone that can at least be consistent within 35 yards. Our return guys are explosive. Hoffman and Falslev are just waiting to bust through to the endzone again this year. They have each had some great 30+ yard returns. Hawaii might be the opportunity they've been waiting for.
Bronco D. These guys should embarrass Hawaii this week. Some things I'd look for this unit to accomplish? Create turnovers, keep the Warriors under 100 yards rushing, and score a touchdown. And I'd love to see KVN, Ziggy, and others add to their sack count.
Hawaii is a bad team. If you throw out the Warriors' lopsided FCS win, their average points scored is 17 while their defense gave up 59 -- that's an average! The BYU offense is going to look much better than it has in weeks, and the Hawaii offense is going to look worse than its average.
I've got the Cougars winning big, 42-6.