Hello Followers. Hope you’re having a fantastic GAME WEEK!!!!
As some of you know, your good friend, the Cougla Khan, took over the pre-game prediction post from me toward the end of last year. And, true to his history, he really started to nail those picks.
So, from here on out, you can expect to hear from the Khan every Friday. And for better or for worse, you will know that he will be right at least 85% of the time.
But today, we’re veering off course a bit to bring you more of a nuanced prediction and backstory than the Khan is able to provide. Read on.
Followers, over this past summer, Little Sutra has become a full-on college football fanatic, to the point where he has learned to download snippets of game film from the interwebs. Then, he stays up half the night trying to analyze it all with his 13 year old brain. And so, after spending a great deal of time watching several BYU games over the summer, he told me the following on a walk late last night:
“Dad, we’re going to kill BYU. And when I say ‘Kill Them,’ I mean that we’re going to beat them 42-14.”
Now, mind you, I don’t think that there’s any way in hell that we’re going to beat BYU by that much, but I do think that his analysis reflects an important narrative that the Khan advanced last week: BYU should NOT be considered an elite team.
I mean, not only does BYU have one its smaller offensive lines in recent memory; it also lacks the overall athleticism on offense that we can expect to see from most of our Pac-12 brethren this year.
What BYU does have, however, is a pretty good defensive front seven, one that figures to be as deep and talented as any group that Bronco Mendenhall has assembled during his tenure.
And so, what all that tells me is as follows: This game has a very real chance to be a lower scoring affair than most folks are currently imagining.
The Keys to the Game:
Be Out-Of-Bounds Special. Last year, our defense was really, really bad. Of course, our special teams were worse, such that they often made our defense appear even worse than it really was (which was WORSE! WORSE!).
To be sure, the addition of Mr. Bowlin figures to help us improve those shortcomings which were caused by a poor kicking game.
But, being better at kicking the ball doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of our return game is going to be worth a salt. So, here’s key #1 for tonight: NO RETURNS. That means, kicking the ball out of the back of the end-zone on every kickoff, and ideally, punting the ball out of bounds as well. In other words, don’t allow BYU a short field tonight because of special teams!
Three Is Better Than Six
Last year, our red zone defense was atrocious. Tonight, it’s got to be much, much better. While Breske’s aggressiveness may yield success elsewhere on the field, tonight the blitzes have got to work when BYU gets in the RedZone. So, in addition to trying to force turnovers, we simply MUST find a way to turn BYU possessions inside our own 20 into FGs. If we hold them to FG’s 3 times inside our redzone, we can steal this. I honestly believe that stat is more important tonight than turnovers.
Six is Better Than Three
Last year, we lost a game at UCLA that we dominated because we couldn’t convert inside the redzone. While I think Andrew Furney will play a key role tonight (drum roll)..
If he factors in much early, we’re going to be in trouble. To win, we’ll need a few big explosive as well as a few grind em out drives, which will require us to get six in first and goal situations.
Possess Early and Often
One of the key weaknesses to BYU’s defense is its lack of depth in the secondary. And, one of our key strengths is our ability to run the opponents’ DB’s out of the stadium if granted sufficient possession opportunities. So, I am going to be watching the time of possession stat really closely in the first half tonight. Assuming that we don’t get down by more than two touches early, I think that if we hold the ball for at least 14 minutes in the first half tonight, we’ll be poised to win it at the end.
30 for 30
Last year, I told you all that in order for us to win football games, we were going to have to score thirty points a game. Our record last year when we scored 30 or more? 4-0. Our record when we did not? 0-8. So, win or lose tonight, the key for us is to see if we can crack that 30 point plateau. If we do, we’ll not only have a good chance to win tonight, our bowl chances will feel pretty alive and well moving forward. In contrast, score under 24 points tonight and this season could feel a lot like the Oregon State and Washington games last year. (NOT Good!)
Sometimes, teams win sporting events not because of talent or experience, but simply because they hold a psychological edge. Tonight, I think the Cougs hold that edge. While BYU stands to lose A LOT if they get nipped tonight, our Cougies seem primed and hyped to go out there and start a new chapter.
And so, while I think this game is going to look pretty darn sloppy early, I think we’ll be on the field enough in quarters 1-3 to allow our scheme and depth at WR to wear BYU down.
Ultimately, we can all hold our breath when Furney heads onto the field with :04 left for the game winning field goal. And when the ball goes through the uprights from 47 yards out…
WSU will have turned a 30-21 fourth quarter deficit, into a 31-30 WSU Cougars victory.
We’ll be back after the game with a recap/vent session.
All for now. Go Cougs.