That said, BYU should prove more effective running the ball than it has most years in the rivalry game. There's every reason to expect continued improvement from the offensive line, which should pave the way for the Cougars' best rushing output against Utah since 1996, when they rushed for 366 yards. Matching that 366-yard mark will be extremely difficult, but BYU should prove more effective than it has against Utah in recent years.
Despite what they did to Texas, don’t expect rushing yards to come easy for the BYU offense. Look for Utah to stack the line of scrimmage and force Taysom Hill to beat them with his arm. Utah should be able to get a push up the middle with its defensive tackles, so look for the Cougars to attack the edge or use misdirections and delays to counteract the Utes’ aggressive front four. BYU should be able to move the football on the ground with limited success, but don’t expect the Cougars to see the kind of success they had against Texas.
BYU’s passing attack vs. Utah
Overview of BYU (Gurney):
To say BYU's passing attack has been anemic through two games might be a gross understatement. Quarterback Taysom Hill has struggled mightily with his accuracy — completing a shocking 33 percent of his passes for a 152 yard average.
Receiver Cody Hoffman is coming off a sore hamstring, which kept him out of the Virginia game. He found some production with Hill last week against Texas, but will need to be more involved this week against Utah. BYU's inside receivers, such as JD Falslev and Brett Thompson, have been relatively quiet so far this season, as has most of the outside receivers, including Ross Apo, Skyler Ridley and Mitch Mathews.
Overview of Utah (Sorensen):
Utah’s secondary has shown its youth this season, especially as it surrendered 440 passing yards to Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. Utah’s early struggles aren’t overly surprising, as its top four corners Keith McGill, Reginald Porter, Davion Orphey and Justin Thomas are all taking their first college snaps at the position. However, despite the numbers, the corners have shown signs of potential, and they could turn into a solid group by the end of the season if they continue to progress.
At safety, Utah has experience with junior free safety Eric Rowe and senior strong safety Michael Walker, but little depth. Rowe and Walker have both played well against the run this season, but both have yet to make a game-changing play in the passing game. The lack of interceptions from the secondary through three games is troublesome, and is a trend the Utes will try to reverse against BYU.
Key matchups for BYU (Gurney):
Utah's defensive backs provided decent coverage last week against Oregon State but proved ineffective in making plays on the ball. Few receivers make better plays on the ball than Hoffman, which could certainly work to BYU's advantage in his coverage matchups.
Utah will likely sell out trying to stop the run, which should provide many one-on-one opportunities for the Cougar receivers. Hill will need to prove more accurate, and his receivers must prove more consistent in simply catching the football than they have in order to take advantage.
Utah didn't provide much of a pass rush last week against Oregon State, but still has guys that will need to be accounted for — particularly Reilly and Orchard. Limiting the hits Hill takes both inside and outside of the pocket will be key for Saturday's game and for the duration of the season.
Key matchups for Utah (Sorensen):
The primary matchup in the passing game will be how senior cornerback Keith McGill is able to match up against BYU receiver Cody Hoffman. Hoffman was BYU’s big play threat last season, but has been slowed by injuries so far this season. McGill is a big, aggressive cover corner, and will likely match up one-on-one with Hoffman throughout much of the game. If he’s able to hold Hoffman in check, it could be a big day for the Utah defense.
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