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BYU Football Bold Predictions: Cougars fend off late Pirates rally

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BYU edges out East Carolina in strong showing from Tanner Mangum and Nick Kurtz

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The first half of last game was not a favorable one for the Cougars. BYU was tied with a far inferior Connecticut team. But that's what turnovers will do. It doesn't matter how well a team moves the ball on offense, if they turn the ball over in the opponents territory, winning a game is going to be tough.

Despite his obvious talents, turnovers continue to plague Tanner Mangum. In four games as a starter Mangum has thrown five interceptions. East Carolina isn't a team prone to picking off passes, it only has three this season. That does play to BYU's advantage and gives rise to the hope that Mangum can get out of this game mistake free. Winning the turnover battle is a big part of Bronco Mendenhall's MO. Under Coach Mendenhall the Cougars are 50-8 when they have a positive turnover margin.

East Carolina will be a tough test. They trot out two quarterbacks with different skill sets. Blake Kemp is your typical pocket-passer and the Pirates could use him to target some of the weak spots in the Cougar secondary. James Summers is the other quarterback they have running the show. He's a dual threat who's done more damage with his legs than his arm so far this season. Though that's not to say that he can't hurt a team with his passing, he has thrown three touchdowns with zero interceptions. It's still unclear who will start for East Carolina as Kemp as started every game but Summers has ended the past two games. It won't be an easy match-up regardless of who the starter is at quarterback.

BYU will be turnover free

Mangum has thrown at least one interception in three of the four games he has started, the only exception being the Michigan game and he was lucky not to throw one or two in that one. He's still a freshman who makes freshman mistakes, even if he's older than a lot of teams seniors. He's very talented and has a very live arm which can sometimes get him in to trouble. At times, he gets caught trying to do too much and it can lead to an interception. The Pirates don't force very many turnovers, forcing five total all season for an average of one per game. They've lost the turnover margin in almost every game this season. I like the Cougars chances to play a turnover free game. Mangum will continue to improve week to week and against this Pirate defense BYU should be able to protect the ball.

Francis Bernard will rush for 100+ yards

Bernard was a revelation last week. His bruising runs were so much fun to watch. Nate Carter, the number two running back this season, just hasn't lived up to that billing. He gets about two yards every play. To some, that may be surprising as he was looking really good at the end of last season. With Algie Brown still getting back to being fully healthy, and slowed down because of injury, Bernard got the chance to show what he could do. He rushed for 69 yards on 11 carries last game. If you can get more than six yards per carry from your running back you're in great shape and are going to win a lot of football games. A lot of his carries came in garbage time but that doesn't negate the power he ran with on those runs. I expect to see his role in the offense grow game by game. By the end of the season him and Brown will probably be splitting carries close to 50-50.

Nick Kurtz will have 75+ yards and a touchdown

Expectations were high for Kurtz when he stepped on campus. He was expected to be another big target to run opposite of Mathews. He's been a big body who's made some nice catches but he hasn't had the impact that many thought he would at this point. He still hasn't found the end zone this season. He had more than 100 yards in his first game, against Nebraska. But since then he's had 100 total yards over four games. 25 receiving yards a game just isn't going to cut it, especially for a player of his size and skill. A player with his talent isn't going to be kept out of the end zone forever. Mitch Mathews and Mitch Juergens can't catch all the touchdown passes. I'm picking Saturday night's game to have the first of many touchdown receptions we'll see from Kurtz.

East Carolina does have some talent on its roster. But I still have to give BYU the edge. The Cougars are more than a touchdown favorites, 8.5 I believe. I think BYU will cover the spread, if only just. Mangum will get back on track and Cougars will fend off a late rally by the Pirates to win 38-27.