BYU finishes its tour of three iconic CFB stadiums in September today by facing Michigan in Ann Arbor at Michigan Stadium. Will the Cougars be tired from four tough games and cross-country travel? Will they beat the spread for the fourth time in four tries, or better yet, win outright?
It feels like there are a multitude of reasonable scenarios for BYU and Michigan today. Oddsmakers and computer formulas agree with that sentiment, as BYU is as much of an underdog as 7 points in some formulas while favored by 1 in others.
I'm not much of a bold predictions maker, but I did want to lay down a couple positive/negative predictions in a best/worst-case scenario picture.
Of course, these are what I view as reasonable best and worst scenarios. Sure, a worst-case scenario could be written as every starter getting hurt, BYU trailing 56-0 at halftime causing the entire staff to resign, eventually leading the Church to shut down the football program. Likely though? My purpose is not to paint ridiculous doomsday scenarios because "but you said worst case!"
With that said:
BYU is t i r e d. The Cougars traveled from Nebraska to home to L.A. to Michigan and the first three legs were emotionally-charged contests.
While the Cougars struggle to find their legs and won't have the services of Travis Tuiloma at nose tackle, Michigan's run game takes full advantage -- UM's big boys up front haven't had to leave home in over three weeks. De'Veon Smith runs wild as a result.
The pressure that seems to increase on Tanner Mangum continues to get worse against the Wolverines, as Mangum gets hit enough times it finally seems to affect his play. The passing game suffers, all while Adam Hine can't find a groove in the run game.
BYU battles for a quarter but is too worn down to muster enough points, while UM runs wild on offense.
Michigan 34, BYU 13
The Cougars are amped. After giving up a game-long lead and losing by 1 to UCLA, BYU has been champing at the bit to get on the field again. A 'bloodbath' of a practice dedicated to tackling got the message through, and the BYU defense puts together opportunistic playmaking with consistent tackling to play its best game on the season.
That bodes well, as the Cougars front seven bounces back from being eaten alive by a hurry-up zone blocking rush attack last week, plugging up Michigan's deliberately paced, man blocking scheme and forces the Wolverines to try and mix things up.
Offensively, BYU continues to fine tune the run game and Adam Hine keeps up his torrid yards-per-carry pace, helping Mangum stay cool and comfortable as always. The offense doesn't move at will, but mounts several impressive drives.
Trailing early and with its run game suddenly not as impressive as it was against the likes of Oregon State and UNLV, UM is forced to put the ball in Jake Rudock's hands. It doesn't go well, as one of the nation's best interception-catching defenses makes Rudock its prey.
The game ends up a lot more fun than we may have anticipated.
BYU 31, Michigan 20