With the continued downward spiral of the BYU football team after a fourth loss in a row, a destruction at the hands of Boise State, it is time to take a different spin on things. This BYU team has played so poorly the past four weeks that even just proclaiming a win would be a bold prediction at this point.
If we've learned anything from the dismantling Boise State gave the Cougars, even with Bronco calling plays, the defense is still not very good right now. Holding opponents to 24 points (as is Bronco's weekly goal) is unlikely, no matter who the opponent is. Any bold prediction concerning the defense could be just that, BOLD, but also unrealistic.
I'm going to do things a little differently this week. Rather than make three or four bold predictions that are unlikely to happen and leave it at that, I'm going to create two sections. The first will be the typical bold predictions I make every week, but then the second section will be followed with more realistic, attainable predictions for the game. The types of predictions that fans would appreciate (but not necessarily love) the team reaching. Although, they will be a far cry from the type of bold predictions and even numbers we saw earlier in the year.
1. Christian Stewart throws for 350 yards and 3 total touchdowns
You thought I wasn't going to be too bold, right? Well, even against Boise State he hit 259 yards passing on 38 attempts. He also had two touchdowns to go with it. Middle Tennessee gives up 460+ yards of total offense per game, 243 of that through the air. The Blue Raiders give up 32 points a game and aren't exactly playing top competition, though the same could be said of the Cougars. For BYU, the problem has not been its offense, at least for the most part. It's been the defense, it is giving up 42.67 points per game in the last three contests. How is a team supposed to win games when the defense can't stop anybody? The offense can't put up 43 points every game, Christian Stewart is not Marcus Mariota and that Oregon offense. Even though BYU has had a bad run of it the past four games, this isn't out of reach. But it won't be easy either.
2. Jamaal Williams will run for 125 yards and one touchdown
He has only eclipsed the century mark on the ground twice this season. Last game was a decent game for him as he returned form an ankle injury. As long as he can continue to progress in recovery his touches should increase, either way he should bust off a couple big runs.
3. Fred Warner will get a sack and/or a pick
His pick-six against Boise State was a thing of beauty. He read the play perfectly and timed his run to pick off the screen pass and run it into the end zone. Before he even set foot on the field for the Cougars he was pegged by many as the successor of Kyle Van Noy. He was going to be BYU's next big playmaker. He's finally got on the field and made his presence known. He looks like KVN out there. A similar career trajectory does not seem like a crazy idea. But let's just start with this season and more importantly, Saturday against Middle Tennessee. A pick and a sack seem like a good way to keep that going.
1. BYU's offense will have more than 400 total yards
The Cougars average about 435 yards per game this season. Since Stewart took over BYU averages 421.7 yards of offense with 601 coming against Nevada. I think Nevada is more comparable to the Blue Raiders than UCF or Boise State are. If that is the case, despite it being a road game, 400 yards does not seem too lofty of a prediction. 250+ yards in the passing game and 150+ rushing should be doable against this MTSU team. It's very difficult to get a read on this team, even still. Just when it doesn't seem like it gets any worse, it does. I think giving up 55 points to anyone is a new low. Middle Tennessee isn't a juggernaut by any means so this number is completely attainable. Anything less would be a very poor performance.
2. BYU will force two turnovers
Forcing turnovers has been hit or miss for the Cougars this season. They'll get four in one game and then zero in the next. Despite the inconsistency of the defense and its propensity for giving up big yards it is still capable of generating a turnover on any given play. The defense hits hard, albeit missing at times, and could force a fumble or two. The Blue Raiders starting quarterback, Austin Grammar, isn't exactly turnover prone but he did throw three against Minnesota and a couple in two other games. The better the competition the more likely he has been to throw a pick. Forcing two turnovers isn't exactly bold, but for this defense it could be. Realistically speaking it is still doable. The corners are constantly picked on, it's possible they'll reward that "bullying" with an interception.
3. The defense will allow less than 30 points
If BYU allowed 30 points against Middle Tennessee that may seem like a disaster but at this point, that could be an accomplishment. It's less than was allowed to Nevada which is considered a comparable team. Bronco wants to allow less than 24 points but that has not happened for the Cougars since the Texas game. Allowing 30 points is still a lot, but it's better than the past five games. It may seem like a big turnaround to go from 55 to 30, but Middle Tennessee isn't exactly an offensive powerhouse. A strong team, yes, but I still think BYU is better. Even if it is just slightly more talented.
The team still has not turned the corner, even in the slightest. The Cougars will eventually right the ship to some degree at least. At this point BYU is likely aiming for a 7-5 record, which means they're going to need to beat the Blue Raiders to reach that goal, unless they can somehow pull one out against Cal to end the season. It is on the road which makes it difficult. Despite recent woes, it is still difficult to see BYU lose five straight. Whether you're a Bronco fan or not, I don't think he let's that happen, Cougars win 34-27.