Just when it seems like the Cougars are set to get back on track and back to their winning ways they have another meltdown. BYU jumped out to a 28-13 halftime lead against Nevada and unfortunately did look back. Nevada went on to win 42-35 as it scored 22 points in the 4th quarter to rally past the Cougars. Not what yours truly predicted.
After losing to UCF in overtime it appeared BYU was going to turn the corner. It was a favorable matchup against the Wolf Pack and it couldn't give up another 4th quarter lead, right? Well it did, and I think its safe to say my predictions were not very close. Christian Stewart had a much more prolific game through the air than I anticipated. Arellano was underwhelming and despite scoring 35 points there was no non-offensive touchdown.
Sometimes when the team is down it can be difficult to make bold predictions. The Cougars continue to be unpredictable week to week. BYU had 601 total yards last week, almost 200 yards more than Nevada but still lost. Costly turnovers are what did them in. Reasons for each loss seem to change week to week. Whether its the defense, the offense, turnovers or penalties. Either way they are resulting in losses and killing the Cougars.
Boise State will be a tough team to beat. It has a solid running game and a passing game that ranks 25th in passing yards per game. But it also gives up 27 points a game, 71st in the country. With it being on the "smurf turf" that will complicate matters for the Cougars. BYU has never beaten Boise State on its home turf, though it has come close in recent years. This week could be a chance for that to change.
BYU may be struggling but that won't prevent these bold predictions from being bold, albeit unlikely, though a couple may be achievable.
1. Christian Stewart will throw for 400 yards
He did it last week. Why can't he do it again? Well, here's one possible reason. He's probably not going to throw 63 passes again. Last week he was 39/63 against the Wolf Pack. He had 408 yards and threw four touchdowns. When a team passes 63 times those numbers are bound to happen. All that said, "Stew" showed some good mobility to keep drives alive and showed a willingness to stretch the field. He came out firing against Utah State but then went to a more conservative passing approach against UCF. Continuing from last game, a slightly more vertical attack should help the offense continue to put points on the board and allow Stewart to hit 400 yards again, though it probably won't be with 60+ passes.
Just like the offense was reliant on Taysom before he went down, it has started to veer towards that direction again. Stewart had 16 runs to go with his 63 passes last game. That's 79 plays that he was directly a part of, that's a bigger workload than even Taysom had most games. Anae has seemed to lean on Stewart more as time goes along. I expect as Stewart proves himself that will continue to happen more and more. His numbers will likely increase accordingly. This is probably a very bold prediction but getting close to those numbers does not seem out of the realm of possibility.
2. Boise State will have less than 100 rushing yards
The Broncos average 194 rushing yards per game so this may seem like a tall task for the Cougar defense. But Boise State also has a good passing attack and with BYU's secondary struggling expect to see "the Smurfs" exploit that. Despite how the defense as a whole has been getting a bad rap (and rightly so in my opinion) the run defense has been pretty solid allowing 126 against Nevada and 63 against UCF. Though, these numbers are tad misleading because of the success teams have had through the air. Why run the ball that often if your quarterback can pick apart the defense? That's what I'd be thinking if i was the opposing head coach or offensive coordinator.
Holding a team to under 100 yards can be difficult and should not be taken for granted. Especially if said team is averaging nearly double that on the ground. The front seven has done a good job of stopping the run in recent weeks. They swarm to the ball carrier very well and have effectively snuffed out runs. However, Boise State running back Jay Ajayi is an excellent running back. He's averaging five yards per carry and has 12 total touchdowns so far this season. Which means he's likely to eclipse last season's total of 19 total touchdowns. He's not a running back to be taken lightly. But if the defense can continue to be strong in the run game it should slow down Ajayi and hopefully make Boise State more one dimensional. Though that "one dimension" is still killing the Cougars in almost every game.
3. BYU will win the turnover battle
Starting with the Texas game, BYU has won the turnover battle every other game. Winning it 4-2 against Texas, 2-0 against Virginia and 4-2 against UCF, then losing it 3-0 against Houston, 4-1 against Utah State and 3-0 against Nevada. When BYU wins the turnover battle they are 3-1 with the only loss coming against Central Florida. Since last game BYU lost the turnover margin, it is the Cougars turn to win it this time around. Stewart didn't throw any interceptions which is a good sign after having four in the past two games. But he did surrender two costly fumbles last game, one of those being in the final minute as he was driving the Cougars down the field for the tie. Fumbles tend to be a little bit easier to fix than throwing interceptions. It's all about just securing the ball properly when in possession of it. If the Cougars can cut down on fumbles, or rather have no fumbles, winning the turnover margin should not be out of reach. The defense has forced five turnovers in the past three games, four of those two games ago. BYU didn't force any last game so it seems primed to keep the trend going and force a few Friday night.
Overall, with BYU's defense still trying to figure it out, the offense continuing to redefine itself, along with the Cougar's struggle playing on the "smurf turf" a win just doesn't seem like it's in the cards. This could prove to be a very difficult test for the Cougars. But who wants to predict a fourth loss in a row? I'll take my chances and say BYU wins a close one, 28-27.