After the Miami game, it was generally agreed that the biggest obstacles to an unbeaten season for BYU would be Oregon and Wyoming.
Well, the 4th-ranked Cougars are here under sunny skies, set to face the Ducks in a game televised by ABC at 1:30 p.m. MDT, and Oregon still looks like trouble. Here's some of the reasons why:- It wouldn't be a complete surprise if some BYU players viewed this non-conference matchup as a "breather" between two WAC games. The Cougars have said all along that winning the WAC is their main goal. They may be thinking about higher objectives, but they are only talking WAC.
- Oregon lost a heartbreaker last week to Arizona, a defeat that hurt their chances for winning the Pac-10 and going to the Rose Bowl. A win against BYU would give the Ducks some national recognition and put them back in a winning mode. As a measure of the mood around here, a local columnist has called this game "the most important non-conference game in Coach Rich Brooks' 14-year tenure."
- Oregon quarterback Bill Musgrave has a 12-1 record in home games that he has started and finished.
- Oregon has a revenge motive, having lost to the Cougars 45-41 last season in Provo after leading 33-14 in the third quarter.
BYU has a big factor in its favor, too, namely quarterback Ty Detmer and an offensive attack that may be the best in the nation. But BYU really has only one reason for winning this game, outside of the usual pride stuff, and that is to continue to have a shot at a national championship.
BYU Coach LaVell Edwards steadfastly refuses to discuss national title, but he does acknowledge that this game means something.
"The Oregon game is one of our bigger games," he said. "It's all important to have ourselves ready for this game."
In this case, "ready" means prepared to stop Musgrave and an offense that is 11th in the nation in scoring (BYU is ninth).
It especially means another challenge for the BYU secondary, which has got to be developing a siege mentality. Every week they line up against a quarterback who can throw - and frequently must throw to keep up with BYU's scoring pace - and receivers who are billed as able to test the Cougars' deep coverage.
"I said at the start of the season that we would face five quarterbacks in the month of September that are as good as any around," Edwards said. "They will test any defense, but the key is that we have been able to keep teams out of the end zone when we have had to keep them out. Actually, I have been fairly happy with the way our defense has played mostof the time."
That "most of the time" is Edwards' way of saying that occasionally the Cougars become a little too relaxed on defense. It's a dual-personality squad that held Miami to 21 points in four quarters yet gave up 24 points in one quarter to San Diego State.
Brooks recognizes that his team also will be challenged defensively. "I think BYU is on another planet on offense," Brooks said. "They're unbelievable.
According to a story in the Portland Oregonian, Brooks' defensive staff was so impressed by the way Detmer roughed up their defensive schemes that they have been planning ever since for a way to get back at him.
"They (BYU) not only took apart our prevent defenses, they took apart the blitz, they took apart everything we wanted to do," Brooks said.
This year the Ducks hope to put a little more pressure on Detmer. "I hope we can get in his face," Oregon defensive coordinator Denny Schuler told the Oregonian. "But if we try something completely dramatic and different from what we normally do, we might end up hurting ourselves more."
Detmer said the early going may be the key to this game.
"We have to go out and establish ourselves early," he said. "If we let them take us out of our game plan, and then they start hitting things and getting the crowd going, it could be a long day for us."
Neither teams report any new injuries this week. BYU defensive backs Tony Crutchfield (knee) and Norm Dixon (leg spasms) were hurting during last week's game but reportedly will play. And Cougar offensive lineman Bryan May is apparently recovered from a flu that caused him to collapse on the sideline toward the end of that game.