After watching last season's dismantling of Texas, one thing is clear: the Longhorns were not properly prepared for BYU's rushing attack. More importantly, they were not ready for Taysom Hill's running ability. The Cougars' 40-21 victory left a lot of the nation shaking its head in disgust at the Longhorns' poor showing.
Many Texas players have talked about the importance of this game, with some circling the game on their calendars. This is a revenge game for Texas. New head coach Charlie Strong couldn't believe the University of Texas could lose to BYU.
For BYU it's just as important. Texas wants revenge, BYU wants respect, respect they deserved but may not have gotten after dominating Texas last year. A lot of national pundits blamed Texas for losing, not giving BYU enough credit for the win. I expect the Cougars to come into this game with a chip on their shoulders, a chip that will give them the necessary edge and hunger to push them to victory.
Here are my bold predictions for this week's game against the University of Texas Longhorns.
1. Taysom Hill will have more than 400 yards of total offense
No, Taysom is not going to run for 259 yards again. He may not even reach 100 yards. But Hill is a much better passer right now than he was this time last year. He's not going to pass for a mere 129 yards with a completion percentage of 34.6% like he did last season against Texas. He'll be much better than that.
Texas knows what Taysom can do with his legs, they don't want to give up over 550 rushing yards and be embarrassed again. Look for Texas to do more to stop the run. This will leave the door open for Taysom to show his improved passing abilities and make use of his abundantly talented group of offensive weapons.
Mitch Mathews, Jordan Leslie, Devon Blackmon, Mitchell Juergens, Terenn Houk, Devin Mahina, Ross Apo and Jamaal Williams are just a few names that will make an impact on Saturday. That group is a more talented and deeper group than last season. Taysom will still get his share of yards on the ground, but expect to see him throw for over 300 yards too.
2. BYU's defense will force three turnovers and have at least three sacks
David Ash won't be starting on Saturday due to concussion-like symptoms. That leaves Coach Strong to put the ball in the hands of sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. In limited action last season, Swoopes was 5-13 passing and had 26 passing yards. Not exactly a pocket passer. He did run for 79 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts last season as he was employed as a situational runner. Swoopes reportedly has had some accuracy issues.
Look for BYU's outside linebackers to clog passing lanes. Constant pressure from BYU's front seven could rattle Swoopes, putting him into unenviable situations and cause some indecision, which will lead to sacks and interceptions.
3. Alani Fua will have a pick-six
Fua had two interceptions in back-to-back games last season, one of which he took back for a touchdown. Fua has good athleticism and, at 6'5", has great length for an outside linebacker. He's adept at getting his hands in the passing lanes and dropping back into coverage.
The interception he returned for a touchdown against Georgia Tech is a good example of his abilities. In the game, Vad Lee was attempting to throw an out-route and Fua jumped up to snag the pass and raced past Lee to the end zone. Swoopes doesn't have a lot of experience against FBS defenses and could struggle to diagnose Bronco's defense. All it will take is one wrong read by Swoopes for Fua to pounce on a pass and run it back for six. With Swoopes inexperience combined with Fua's athleticism and knack for anticipating routes, don't be surprised to see Fua take one back to the house.
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There you have it. With an improved passing attack for BYU and an inexperienced quarterback running the show for Texas the Cougars are set to get another win against the Longhorns. It won't be a blowout like last year but I still expect BYU to leave Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium with a victory.
BYU wins 31-23.