After the BYU Cougars amazing showing against the Boise State Broncos last week, in which Tanner Mangum reached into his bag of magic tricks and was able to pull together another late game come from behind victory against a quality opponent, I was sorely tempted to pick an offensive player for the breakout player this upcoming week (for those keeping track, Mangum has two game winning drives in two games played).
However, the 2-0 UCLA Bruins are a whole different animal from anybody that BYU has played this season, and their blowout win against Virginia certainly looks much better after the Cavaliers took the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to the wire last Saturday. The Bruins are a legitimate top ten program with several players destined for the first couple days of the NFL draft in Chicago next year, including all-world-do-everything linebacker/running back Myles Jack, whose play is violently reminiscent of Lawrence Taylor.
Adam Hine showed some flashes against Boise State, breaking tackles and gaining yards after contact in a manner that he hadn't shown before. However, I definitely do not see Hine duplicating his efforts against a much bigger, faster and stronger UCLA defense.
If BYU is going to win this game, it's going to have to be on defense, where they will face a Bruin offense with a true freshman quarterback in Josh Rosen. Rosen, however, has shown a moxie reminiscent of Matt Barkley's early days at USC, where he won the job as a true freshman and went on to have a stellar career for the Trojans.
If BYU is going to have a chance to win this game, then they will need to have to have a herculean effort from their defense, and that effort needs to start in the secondary. More specifically on the edges at the corner positions. After a bit of a lackluster performance against Boise State, cornerback Micah Hannemann has an opportunity to right the ship against what is likely BYU's toughest opponent of the 2015 schedule. Hannemann, who had a critical interception against Nebraska in week one, was beaten several times on edge plays against the Broncos, and had a couple of bad decisions on punt returns that put the Cougars in poor field position in the first half.
Despite those setbacks, Hannemann is a talented player. He shows good feet and hips, and is able to change direction well enough. He does have a tendency to bite on double moves and has been susceptible to pick plays as well as having his tackling technique break down at times, but these are all very coachable issues, and I'm confident that Bronco can help turn that around. Look for a solid game from Hannemann, as he bounces back against UCLA, and while he may get beaten a few times, he should be able to hold his own against UCLA's talented wide receiver corps.
If BYU can remain stout up front, then the onus will be on Hannemann and the secondary to step up and stop them through the air, hopefully forcing a couple of turnovers along the way. The task may be tough for them, but I expect them to turn in a stellar effort that may key the upset.