ATLANTA — Statistically speaking, Georgia Tech is the best offensive team BYU's defense will confront this season.
The Yellow Jackets, who run a triple-option attack, are averaging 37 points and 497.7 yards of total offense, including 339.8 rushing yards.
"It's definitely the best offense we've faced in terms of production, yards and points per game," said senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree. "It presents unique challenges because it's an offense we're not used to facing. I would say our intensity and focus has been up to the challenge this week in practice."
The Cougars visit Georgia Tech Saturday (1 p.m. MT, ROOT Sports).
The Yellow Jackets, members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, face tough competition on a regular basis, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall pointed out.
"They're playing better teams week-in and week-out than most of the other option teams we have played in the past," he said. "It doesn't mean they are better or worse, but 37 points a game against good competition — that's quite a statement."
Last week, Georgia Tech rolled up 563 yards of total offense and kept the ball for more than 43 minutes in its victory over Boston College.
While the Cougars have traditionally played well against the option, it's been more than two years since BYU went up against an option team — in 2010 at Air Force. The Cougars lost, 35-14.
"Playing the option is definitely a challenge mentally and physically," Ogletree said. "They come downhill hard and it makes for a real tough week of practice. But I think the mood's been right. It's been a physical week of practice and a tough week of preparation. That's how we like it. It's a grind, but we're used to it."
The biggest challenge about defending the triple option?
"It's being gap-sound," Ogletree said. "There are so many different looks they can give and so many options with the ball. If you're not in your gap, the fullback can gash you for 50 yards out of nowhere. It's about having your eyes on your keys and playing your gap. That's all you can do."
Only a handful of current Cougars, like Ogletree, have played against the option. Backup freshman defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi has never played against the option.
"Playing the option, it's always something different," Kaufusi said. "It takes a lot of discipline. Everyone has his responsibility — each person on the field. You have to do your responsibility every single play. If you take one play off, there's the big one."
Another concern for BYU is its lack of depth on the defensive line.
"We've got three experienced players and Bronson's our fourth," Mendenhall said. "When you're averaging 85-90 plays, as Georgia Tech is, that's a lot of wear and tear on three or four guys."
Yellow Jacket quarterback Tevin Washington has rushed for 15 touchdowns this season. His backup, Vad Lee, who played extensively in last week's victory over Boston College, is expected to receive occasional series against BYU. Washington is the second QB in school history to run for 2,000 yards and pass for 2,500 yards. Meanwhile, A-back Orwin Smith averages 10.6 yards per carry.
BYU allows only 93.1 yards rushing per game, which ranks No. 8 nationally, and 2.9 yards per carry. However, the Cougars allowed 270 yards on the ground in a 17-14 loss at Notre Dame last week.
Mendenhall said the Yellow Jackets are effective throwing the ball, averaging 18.1 yards per reception. Wide receiver Jeff Greene, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, has caught a team-high 12 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns.
"They run, run, run, then eventually your secondary doesn't pay attention and they throw it over the top of you," Mendenhall said. "They're pretty balanced for an option team."9 comments on this story
The Cougars have been cramming for Georgia Tech's triple option this week like it's a final exam.
"Everyone's gotten better during the week," Ogletree said. "Monday was a little rough. Tuesday we got a little better. On Wednesday we were pretty much on point with most of our stuff."
"We could use another week (to prepare)," Mendenhall said. "(Georgia Tech is) very good. They run it really well. They do some unique things with the option and they throw it better than what you would think. So it's quite a challenge coming up."