The Cougars (6-3) fell short at Camp Randall over the weekend as the offense failed to produce enough firepower to give BYU a chance to win. Taysom Hill probably played his worst game (19 for 41 on pass attempts) since the loss to Utah (18 for 48), and Jamaal Williams failed to eclipse 100 yards on the ground against a stingy Badger defense. But the Cougars (especially the offense) will look to right the ship this weekend as they host FCS opponent Idaho State (3-7).
Let's be honest, the Bengals (who have 3 wins at the FCS level) don't have much of a chance of coming into LES and stealing a victory (although crazier things have happened). But this is one of the unfortunate side effects of Independence - playing humdrum games in mid-November.
Although the Cougars have already accepted a bowl bid and are unable to participate in the traditional November college football drama of fighting for conference championships (or playing conference spoiler), this doesn't mean there isn't anything to play for at this time of year. The Cougar's goal is still to make some national noise by winning out (including their bowl game) and trying to end the season with a national ranking. The first step to achieve this goal takes place this Saturday against Idaho State.
Idaho State has had a rough season to date. They play in the Big Sky conference (same as in-state program Weber State), but have been able to come away with only one conference win so far (Northern Colorado). The Bengals have already played one other FBS opponent so far this season when they traveled to then #17 Washington. They were ran off the field in a 56-0 defeat.
Names to Know
Justin Arias is a junior quarterback who actually ranks #4 in total passing yards at the FCS level (3,354 yards). He completes 58% of his passes, has a total of 25 touchdowns, and has thrown for over 400 yards in three games this season. Arias has a knack for spreading the ball around, as 6 Bengals have 20+ receptions. Arias' rushing statistics are not so spectacular. On 65 rushing attempts this year, Arias has a total of -77 rushing yards (yes, negative).
Luke Austin leads the team in receptions (56) and receiving yards (844). Austin averages over 15 yards per reception, and has 7 touchdowns on the season.
Xavier Finney is the sophomore running back who leads the Bengal rushing attack. He ranks 64th in rushing yards at the FCS level with his 728 yards on the ground and 4 touchdowns. The Idaho State rushing attack as a whole is ranked 115th out 122 FCS teams, averaging 84 rushing yards per game.
Idaho State is obviously a pass-heavy team, as they have thrown the ball 496 times this year (accounting for 3,041 yds) compared to just 262 rushing attempts (840 yds).
Mitch Beckstead has been a defensive standout for the Bengals this season at the linebacker position. Beckstead leads the teams with 74 tackles, five tackles for a loss, three interceptions, and one fumble recovery.
How do they matchup with BYU?
The Cougars will roll this weekend. BYU's athleticism, size, strength, and speed will prove too much for the Bengals, and don't be surprised when this one is all but over at half time. This game will prove to be a great opportunity for Hill, Williams, and the rest of the Cougar offense to regain some momentum and confidence after struggling against Wisconsin last Saturday.
It's important that the Cougars take advantage of this opportunity to sharpen themselves in preparation for a show down with the Fighting Irish in South Bend next week.
Prediction: BYU wins 51-7