After a very disappointing, mistake plagued loss to a fired up Missouri Tigers football team last Saturday, BYU returns home to the friendly confines of LaVell Edwards Stadium for the final time this season to play host to the Bulldogs of Fresno State. Although the Cougars sit at 7-3 and are assured of going bowling this holiday season, the past couple of games out of the BYE week have done nothing to inspire confidence in the Cougar faithful. After a woeful performance against a San Jose State team that hasn't been able to stop anybody on the ground, the Cougars utterly collapsed against Mizzou and folded, losing 20-16. The Cougars are currently ranked 105th in the FBS in running the football, and given the fact that when their offense becomes one dimensional, they struggle to move the ball at all in the passing game, this is a serious problem. I'm tempted to pick either Adam Hine or Riley Burt for the breakout player this week, because Hine really has yet to show anything since he's returned from injury and Burt is averaging 14 yards per carry on only five attempts, but I feel that this game serves as a unique opportunity for BYU to work the middle of the field in their short passing game.
The tight end position has always been integral to the Cougar passing attack. As it's helped to soften up the middle of the defense and served as an outlet for BYU quarterbacks of the past when the outside receivers cannot win their one on one battles. Indeed, even in Robert Anae's first stint as the offensive coordinator, tight ends Daniel Coats, Johnny Harline, Dennis Pitta and Andrew George always ranked very high among Cougar pass catchers in both receptions and touchdowns. This season, Cougar tight end Remington Peck ranks near the bottom of the list, with only four receptions for 59 yards. The converted defensive end averages 14.9 yards per reception, so he's clearly able to win his one on one matchups. Peck hasn't played tight end since high school, but he's the only listed tight end on the roster to have a catch this season, and the way BYU is running the ball, and the softness of the receivers on the edges should signal that it's time for that trend to end.
As a defensive end, Peck is athletic, and he proved against Missouri that he can get open. I think that Peck is going to continue to evolve as a tight end, and he should provide the spark that the BYU offense has been needing. Look for him to get behind the defense and pick up some key first downs. He should pick up somewhere between five and ten catches, many for first downs, and possibly a touchdown along the way. This should stretch the Bulldogs' linebacking corps enough for the Cougar offensive line to get to the second level and help establish the running game. Once that happens, Mangum has proven that he can take command of the game. Once that happens, the Cougars should be able to run and pass at will against the inferior talent that Fresno State will throw at them, and at least be able to head to Logan to close out the regular season with a two game winning streak.