Last week was a little bit too close for comfort. But a win is a win. A comeback victory makes it all the more gratifying, especially after the terrible start. Though the argument could be made that BYU never should have been in a position to need to come back, the fact remains it was a gutsy effort by Mangum and company. After hurting his hamstring to come back in and lead a touchdown drive to win the game was huge. I'll say it again, the future is bright with Mangum at the helm.
At this point, it appears Mangum's hamstring injury likely won't keep him out of tonight's game. We'll know for sure at game time it would seem. If he does sit the Cougars may be in trouble. Beau Hoge would be the likely starter, another true freshman. Though, this freshman would be right out of high school and not just off a mission. Hoge did the best he could after being thrown into the play last week. It was clear he wasn't ready. Playing behind another true freshman I doubt he's getting many, if any, first team reps. Not to mention, he was the 3rd string quarterback behind Taysom Hill and Tanner Mangum. I doubt he expected to even see the field this season.
The Cougars aren't the only ones with quarterback questions going into this game. The Bearcats have started two different quarterbacks this season, the freshman Hayden Moore and junior, Gunner Kiel. Kiel was in the same Elite 11 camp Tanner Mangum won co-MVP at a few years back. Kiel has thrown 5 touchdowns this season with 5 picks to go along with it. He's got a QBR of 64.7 compared to Hayden Moore's 54.8. The two have been fairly similar in their respective stat lines and have both played in every game except for sitting out one game each. Just like last week with East Carolina we will probably see two quarterbacks tonight.
BYU will have 3 interceptions
The Cougar defense's propensity for picking off passes has tapered off a little bit but this is still a ball hawking defense. Between the two Bearcat quarterbacks they have thrown 10 interceptions, an average of 2 per game. It doesn't matter who is playing quarterback there is a good chance a few passes may find their way into other team's hands. It feels like Kai Nacua has been relatively quiet lately. This is an opportunity for him to make his name heard once again.
Cincinnati passes the ball a lot. They are 5th in the country in yards per game at just over 385. In two games this season, both losses, the Bearcats passed more than 50 times. It's quite difficult to throw the ball that many times without it ending up in the wrong hands. I like this secondary to step up and in front of a few passes Friday night, maybe they'll even take one to the house if we're lucky.
Tanner Mangum will throw for more than 400 yards
Against Connecticut Mangum threw for 365 yards, the most ever by a true freshman quarterback at BYU. He's eclipsed 300 yards three times this season. 400 yards does seem like a tall task for a freshman but with Mangum's love of the deep ball it would not surprise me to see it happen before the season was over. Devon Blackmon had a breakout game last week and his breakaway speed should provide opportunities for Mangum to go deep. Mitch Mathews, Nick Kurtz and Mitch Juergens have also shown the ability to have big games and to amass a lot of yards through the air. The Bearcats give up 230 yards of passing through the air but as the Cougars tend to get most of their yards by passing the ball I 'd be shocked if the Cougars are even close to what Cincinnati's average is. Another thing of note, with a hurt hamstring Mangum is probably even less likely to run. I like his chances to throw for quite a bit of yards.
The Bearcats will score no more than 30 points
On its face this does not sound bold but when you consider that Cincinnati has scored at least 34 points in all but one game this season it sounds a little more difficult. Granted, the schedule for the Bearcats hasn't been too difficult, they can still score points. The secondary is probably the weakest part of the defense so holding the Bearcats under 30 is not going to be easy. There's a good chance it'll be a high scoring affair, but hopefully it's just the Cougars that are putting a bunch of points on the board.
In the end I think this will be a close one. The Cougars will force some turnovers and put some points on the board. I like them to win a close one in Provo, 34-28.