It's only game three and it seems everyone is already drinking the blue Kool-Aid. Put me in that category too!
The Cougars have won their two games by an average of 29.5 points, with the offense averaging over 450 yards per game. Taysom has eight total touchdowns (3 passing, 5 rushing) to his name and the defense hasn't skipped a beat despite the departures of Kyle Van Noy and Daniel Sorensen to the NFL. The defense is allowing a little more than 300 yards and 8.5 points per game, forcing 6 turnovers this season.
Houston had a rough start to the season, losing 27-7 at home to the UTSA Roadrunners. They bounced back with a 47-0 rout of Grambling State. That raises the question of which team is actually going to show up. BYU won a 47-46 thriller against the "other Cougars" last season when Taysom Hill threw a beautiful back shoulder pass to Skyler Ridley at the corner flag. That was a back and forth affair all game long, but I don't expect to see that happen this season.
BYU is better in just about every aspect this time around. The secondary, as a whole, is better this year than last. It won't be allowing Houston to put up as many points. Taysom Hill threw three interceptions that game; don't expect to see that happen again. There's a reason many pundits have Taysom's name in the Heisman conversation this early in the year. He's a truly elite dual-threat quarterback this season.
BYU's receivers are better, especially with Jordan Leslie's breakout game against Texas. The BYU offense will be firing on all cylinders come Thursday night. Last season produced 681 yards of total offense and 47 points for BYU, don't be surprised if we see numbers similar to that again.
Here are my 5 bold predictions for Thursday night's game on ESPN against the Houston Cougars.
1. The BYU defense will force 3+ turnovers and 4+ sacks
Sophomore quarterback John O'Korn played pretty well against the Cougars last season, but this season has been a different story. He's been sub-par through two games. In two starts he's thrown for 404 yards, 1 TD and 4 INT. Not exactly numbers that inspire confidence or fear, depending on which team you play for. He threw four picks against UTSA, a decent team but not really a juggernaut. Imagine how many turnovers BYU could force. A swarming defense playing in front of a home crowd against a turnover-prone quarterback is a recipe for disaster. A couple picks and a forced fumble or two is not out of the realm of possibility.
2. Taysom Hill will have more than 400 yards of total offense and 4 total touchdowns.
There isn't much that needs to be said. It's Taysom Hill. He just dominates defenses. This season he's averaging 4 touchdowns and 342 yards of total offense per game. Look for him to be around those numbers, maybe higher, against an okay defense. The Houston Cougars aren't prepared to stop BYU's high-octane offense led by our Heisman candidate.
3. The running backs will combine for 225 total yards and 2 TDs
Jamaal Williams, Adam Hine, Alge Brown and Paul Lasike have quickly shown just how dominant this running back group can be. Jamaal established his presence against Texas early, demonstrating just what the Cougar offense was missing without him. Hine has been a great running back in relief, getting two touchdowns at Texas. Alge Brown has been, surprisingly to some, a great pass catcher out of the backfield. He's third on the team in receiving with 9 receptions and 84 yards, more than the rest of the running backs combined. His great hands have made him a favorite target for Hill on dump offs and swing routes. That should continue as the Cougars mount a plethora of chain-moving drives on Thursday night.
4. BYU holds Houston to less than 300 yards on offense
Houston is averaging 342 yards of offense per game, oddly enough the same amount Taysom Hill is averaging by himself this season. Houston only had 208 yards of offense against the Roadrunners. In recent years, the BYU Cougars have been known for having a stifling defense and this season will be no different. BYU's secondary loves to fly around making plays, the front-seven is nasty and will stop anyone trying to get out of the backfield. The BYU defense is not an easy defense to gain any yards on. Houston will give their best effort, but they'll still come up short.
5. Jordan Leslie will have 100+ yards and 2 TDs
Leslie was Hill's favorite target against the Longhorns, making key receptions to move the chains. After only two receptions and 22 yards in the season opener, Leslie had seven receptions for 85 yards at Texas. Leslie will continue to rise and establish himself as the go-to receiver for the BYU Cougars. His speed combined with Hill's arm strength and improved passing ability will carve up the Houston defense. What we all saw on Saturday night is only a glimpse of what we'll see with Jordan Leslie this season. Look for a couple deep passes to Leslie Thursday night as Anae will try to utilize his speed to stretch the defense and put points on the board.
This game won't be anything like the game against Houston last season. It's not going to be an offensive shootout that comes down to the final minutes. We aren't going to see the same mistakes from the defense or the same poor throws from Taysom Hill. The BYU offense is going to utilize its many weapons to dominate the Houston defense. BYU's defense is going to swarm the ball and harass Houston's offensive players all night long.
BYU wins in a rout 41-13.