Calling last week's loss against UCLA a crushing defeat may be an understatement. It would have been BYU's first win against a top 10 team since beating Oklahoma in 2009. A win would have likely launched them into the forefront of the College Football Playoff conversation as well as a possible top 10 ranking. The secondary played great and shut down Rosen for most of the game.
But the run defense did struggle at stopping Paul Perkins as he ran for 219 yards at 8.4 YPC. This inability to stop the run was BYU's undoing and ultimately led to a win by the Bruins.
It appears the BYU defense could be getting a welcome return, nose tackle Travis Tuiloma. After suffering a knee injury in the win against Nebraska Tuiloma was expected to be out 4-6 weeks. But according to Tuiloma on Twitter, he is optimistic he can play in the game at The Big House. His return would bolster the defense in the run game especially, but also in the passing game by strengthening the pass rush. If Tuiloma had played against UCLA, the Cougars win that game by at least a touchdown. With how Mangum has been playing and the defense improving each week, Tuiloma's return gives BYU a chance to win every game the rest of the season.
Michigan has a strong defense but an offense that leads much to be desired. The Wolverines average 379 total yards of offense per game with only 194 passing yards per game. I'm not expecting a strong showing from Michigan's offense, so this week will be very defense heavy and I like BYU's chances in this one. Let's get to the bold predictions.
BYU will hold Michigan to 20 points or less
Michigan averages 26.7 points per game this season. Senior quarterback Jake Rudock averages just under 200 passing yards per game at 194. Michigan's ground attack is solid, so Rudock hasn't been expected to win games with his arm but even still, he has struggled. Rudock's QBR this season is 34.3 with his best QBR performance being 39.3 last week against UNLV. That game looks even worse considering his adjusted QBR, that adjusts for the opponent's defense, was 23.4. Rudock is not even remotely the type of quarterback who strikes fear into the hearts of opponents. I have a feeling Kai Nacua, Harvey Langi and company are going to give him fits.
The running game for Michigan has been solid if unspectacular this season -- although the bulk of the Wolverines' touchdowns have come on the ground. They sit at 31st in the country in rushing touchdowns this season with 7. In the last two games - both wins - Michigan has run for 239.5 yards per game.
The offense leaned on Rudock a little too much in the first game and it seems they learned that's not really a possibility if they want to be successful. He's just not good enough to throw the ball 40+ times a game and win you a football game. If the Wolverines are running the ball well they have a better chance of winning. If Michigan can do that against BYU they have a chance, but I expect BYU's defense to be better this week against the run than they were against UCLA.
BYU will force 4 turnovers against the Wolverines
I wanted to say 3 turnovers in this one. But with how this defense (Nacua) is forcing turnovers, three just wouldn't be bold. The Cougars are tied for first in the nation in interceptions with seven, and Nacua leads the nation with four of his own. Add on another fumble recovery and the Cougars have forced 8 turnovers this season. The BYU defense has three picks in each of the past two games so a bold prediction requires me to step it up a little bit.
Rudock has already shown a propensity to turn the ball over this season. He's thrown a pick in all three games this week, five total, with three of those coming against the Utes. A ball-hawking defense and a turnover-prone quarterback is a recipe for a fun day for any defense. Expect to see the same when these two teams step on the field. The Cougar defense is going to spend a lot of time in Rudock's backfield and that added pressure will help some of his passes find their way into the hands of the BYU secondary, maybe some linebackers too (I'm sure Langi would have something to say about that).
The Cougars will have a pick-six
Recording seven picks on the year has led to one pick-six by the Cougars, Nacua's game-clinching pick against Boise State. If BYU can get out to an early lead against the Wolverines it could put the Wolverines in a situation where they need to throw more, similar to their game against Utah. More throws leads to more opportunities, and I think this defense is going to take advantage of that.
Nacua has quite a nose for the ball. He could easily have 5 picks this year if not for one he dropped against UCLA. He's only played 2 games but leads the nation. I'm sure Rudock will be aware of him and may try to just avoid him altogether. But there rest of the defense is still strong. If Michigan has to pass the ball more than we should see more interceptions, it doesn't seem like that's going to change for Rudock this early on.
Going into this season, this looked like it would be a tough game for the Cougars and they'd have a tough time winning it. This still isn't going to be an easy game but I still love BYU's chances, even if it is at The Big House. Mangum has gotten better every week and the defense continues to improve. BYU just needs to stop the run to leave Ann Arbor with the win.
BYU wins 24-17.