One of the biggest storylines of this game, for both sides, has been about suspensions. Nebraska will have multiple players suspended, suspected to be starting linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey and starting cornerback Jonathan Rose.
It is still unclear who will be missing from BYU. Presumed starting linebacker Sione Takitaki is the only confirmed suspension, though there is a good possibility starting safety Kai Nacua will be suspended. It also looks like Starting linebacker Harvey Langi will sit for the first half. There may or may not be more.
These unknowns can make Saturday's game difficult to predict. The first game of the season is always tough to project, so possible suspensions only compounds it. But who's actually playing is more important than who will be sitting out. So let's focus on that.
There's been a lot of talk about the BYU offense, and rightfully so. Taysom Hill is the real deal. He's a legit athlete at the quarterback position unlike any other in college football right now. He's got size, speed and a strong arm with towering receivers in Mitch Mathews, Nick Kurtz and Terenn Houk to throw to.
Nebraska has a new coaching staff, with a new system and schemes to break in. Mix all that in with this being the first game, and that's a recipe for some growing pains (think BYU's opener at Virginia two seasons ago). Those are growing pains BYU will be taking advantage of when they visit the Huskers on Saturday afternoon.
Here are just a few ways that the Cougars are going to be adding to Nebraska's pains this weekend:
Taysom Hill will have 450 total yards with 4 total touchdowns
Hill is one of the most dynamic players in college football this season. The stage has been set for him to have a big season. Taysom has some big targets to throw to and Nebraska's corners won't have the size to match up. They have good size for corners, both standing over 6 feet. But let's be honest, when a team has 3 receivers standing at least 6'5'' any team's defensive backs are going to be undersized.
Mathews has a knack for getting open and is Taysom's go to receiver. That alone will probably account for at least 100 passing yards. But with all the other weapons on the field, hitting 450 total yards is possible for Hill. Nebraska is installing a new defensive scheme and Hill's experience in Anae's system should allow him to overcome a lot of growing pains typically associated with the first game of the week. When a team's starting quarterback is as talented as Hill with a strong, experienced offensive line and weapons at every position, that bodes well for the offense. I'm thinking around 375 passing yards and 75 rushing yards sounds right.
Fred Warner will have 2 sacks
Warner may be the most exciting defensive playmaker to come to BYU since Kyle Van Noy stepped on the campus a few years back. To many, Warner is the heir-apparent to KVN. Warner has a great blend of athleticism, size and range. As a true freshman last season he recorded 24 tackles, one tackle for a loss and an interception before injury ended his season. With Bronco back in charge of the defense, Warner should be in a better position to make plays and wreak havoc on Nebraska the way that KVN would on offenses his whole college career.
Cornhusker quarterback Tommy Armstrong is a talented, experienced quarterback. He had 3,400 total yards and 28 touchdowns last year, so he is no pushover. Getting two sacks won't be easy for Warner to do but I like what I'm hearing about the defense and Warner may have the biggest impact on the defense going forward.
BYU will have 175 rushing yards
This may be a surprising one since much of the talk has been about BYU's big receivers and passing attack. Jamaal Williams is also out for the season, which is an obvious hit to the running backs. But the cupboard isn't exactly bare. Algernon Brown is a bruising running back and Nate Carter runs hard every play. BYU may pass the ball more this season but don't expect them to completely abandon the running game. The Cougars are still going to have to run the ball if they want the offense to reach its explosive potential.
Hill may also be running less this season, but don't expect him to just stop altogether. His running ability is what allows him to keep the BYU offense running. It's also a major reason that he is in the dark-horse Heisman conversation to start the season. Most of his rushing yards will likely come off of broken pass plays and less on called QB runs. With the passing game being a strength for the Cougar offense, that's likely to be a focus for the black shirts of the Nebraska defense. Cue the running game. We'll probably see close to 90 plays for BYU on Saturday, so 175 rushing yards has a good chance at happening.
Overall, optimism is high for the Cougars going into this season. With BYU's potentially high-powered and improved GFGH offense we should see a lot of points scored. Bronco is taking back the defense so we should see increased dominance. Throw in the new Nebraska staff and the Cougars will come out on top. BYU wins 31-20.