It feels like it has been a very long time since BYU played a meaningful game of football. Two weeks ago the Cougars crushed the FCS Wagner Seahawks in a game that saw three true freshman quarterbacks get on the field for the Cougars. Then there was the bye the following week. Rust is one thing to keep in mind going into this game. Taking two weeks off from FBS opponents can be tough, especially with a young team.
The Spartans aren't a bad team, but they aren't a force to be reckoned with either. As a team, the Spartans are 48th in the country in rushing yards. However, their starting running back, Tyler Ervin is 3rd in the country rushing for an average of 144.9 yards per game. He'll be the one the BYU defense needs to focus on stopping if they want to head back to Provo with a victory. San Jose has a balanced attack and sits at 4-4 with a 3-1 home record. Anything but a Cougar victory would be surprising though.
Algernon Brown will have 150 total yards and 3 total touchdowns
San Jose State ranks 114th in rushing defense allowing 225 rushing yards per game. Against BYU's stable of backs and a talented passing game, look for the Cougars to take advantage of that. Alge Brown has run for 331 yards and has 8 total touchdowns the past 3 games. There is little reason to believe the Spartans poor rushing defense numbers are going to remain the same. Brown has finally started to find his game and is getting into a groove in the final third of the season. There will be some other backs that will give him from respite throughout the game. I expect to see BYU take an early lead and let Alge continue to run all over them with a little Francis Bernard mixed in.
BYU will have a special team touchdown return
Adam Hine has been a great return man in his career with the Cougars. He's got the look of a guy who could break for a touchdown on almost any return, he's had a few that were so close and he has made it in once. This season has given rise to a few different guys in the return game. A handful of players have gotten some looks. Devon Blackmon has seen the most time on returns, but Trey Dye and Michael Shelton have also gotten their chances. Shelton handled punt return duties against Wagner and looked pretty good. Now it was Wagner so, of course, this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Shelton was still showing some pretty good moves, he was shifty, but he wasn't dancing too much and he picked up some good yardage. The Cougars average just over 10 yards per punt return. Adam Hine ran back a kick for a touchdown last year. Why not make kick return touchdowns a yearly tradition, right?
The Spartans will have less than 300 total yards
BYU gives up a 359 yards per game and San Jose State averages 411 yards per game. Those numbers indicate that holding the Spartans to under 300 won't exactly be a cakewalk. Holding a team to more than 100 under its average is an impressive feat. All that said, I really like the progress the Cougar defense seems to be making. Travis Tuiloma return from injury has been huge for the pass rush and run defense. Losing Takitaki hurts, but with Tuiloma taking up blocks it still frees up space for Kaufusi and Warner to cause problems in the backfield.
Kai Nacua started the season strong, but hasn't made as many highlight level plays lately. Though he has been playing out of position until recently. With the usual corners back Nacua has returned to his natural safety role and is ready to get back to blowing up plays and picking off passes. The secondary is looking better. The talent is still there and execution is improving. San Jose State's offense is based around the run game and BYU allows 142 rushing yards per game. If they can get that down to about 100 than holding the Spartans to under 300 yards should be doable.
BYU has improved each week and has continued to find ways to win. They won't dominate the way they did against Wagner, but I still think it will be an impressive victory. BYU wins 38-17