BYU Football has a huge opportunity to make a statement in their last regular season game this year. Not only would they end the year on a 6-game winning streak, but they can prove how much their offense has improved by performing well against a top-10 defense in San Diego State. The Aztecs are top-10 in rush defense, yards per game, and points per game. They are also top-50 in pass defense. It is not easy to move the ball against the Aztecs, so if BYU can control the game, it will show a lot of improvement over the past two months. To get a better feel for what the match-up will look like, we spoke with Michael Wittmann from Mountain West Connection.
Vanquish the Foe: Starting QB Ryan Agnew is out for this game. What can the Cougars expect from the Aztecs’ offense?
Michael Wittmann: With Agnew, the offense has been very pass-heavy the past two weeks (39 attempts last week, 47 the week before). They’ve tried to be more balanced with running back Juwan Washington limited with an ankle injury. With Agnew out, it could get dicey. Either way, this SDSU offense still struggles to score points and the BYU defense should be up to the task.
VTF: Based on the Aztecs’ offensive production this year, what players on BYU’s defense have potential for huge games and can stop the Aztecs?
Michael: I’d expect leading Cougar tackler Kavika Fonua to continue his big season and have another monster game, contributing in stopping both the run and the pass. Likewise I see Khyiris Tonga and Bracken El-Bakri on the d-line have great opportunities to hear their name called early and often as the Aztecs try to establish the run-game. To me, that’s the “game within the game” to watch.
VTF: The Aztecs have one of the best defenses in the country. What are their strengths, and how have they been so successful this year?
Michael: Their strengths are their back seven/eight. LB Kyahva Tenzino and S Dwayne Johnson Jr are both tackle machines (89 and 77 respectively). The two emerging stars in the secondary are ball-hawks Luq Barcoo (8 INTs) and Tariq Thompson (2 INTs while playing the hybrid safety position).
VTF: What players on the Aztecs’ offense could have big games? Why?
Michael: As mentioned above, the Aztecs offense isn’t anything to write home about. It’s hard to identify one key player outside of Juwan Washington, who has been slowed. Their other running-backs are Chance Bell and Chase Jasmin and both should see a good amount of carries. Kobe Smith is their leading receiving in all categories and is certainly one to key in on, but the X-factor on offense may be big TE Daniel Bellinger, especially on third downs and red-zone situations.
VTF: If BYU is to come away with a victory, what players on the Cougars’ offense need to have good games? Why?
Michael: For me, Matt Bushman is always the toughest matchup on the BYU offense. It would be easy to predict him becoming the difference-maker for BYU. Other than that, they will need to get their running game going against a tough SDSU defense to keep from becoming one-dimensional. Either Lopini Katoa or Jackson McChesney will need to have a line of something like 90-100 yards with a score just to keep things honest.
Michael: Rocky Long teams have a tendency to throw in the towel after their don’t have much to play for. Losing to Hawaii last week and thus losing the division, it would not be surprising to see the Aztecs come out flat. 24-14, Cougars.