BOISE, Idaho — A win over Boise State would bring a magic injection of karma into BYU’s football program Saturday.
But it would also be something the Cougar football program has never done before — getting a win in Albertsons Stadium.
How can such an unreachable feat be achieved by a team that basically started over on offense two weeks ago when true freshman Zach Wilson replaced senior quarterback Tanner Mangum?
In reality, it would take a lot of smoke and mirrors, a semitruck of luck, and the performance of the season for BYU to beat the Broncos. On the other hand, all you have to do is look at last week in the Pac-12 to see that strange things happen in college football. How did Oregon State beat Colorado in Boulder? How did Cal upset Washington? Earlier, we saw Purdue defeat Ohio State and Virginia Tech lose to Old Dominion, a miracle of our time.
In a nutshell, the Cougars are retooling for the future. It is not expected to get there this week as BYU is a two-touchdown underdog playing the Mountain West’s most consistent team and one of the winningest programs in college football during the past two decades.
The key to this rebuilding effort is BYU’s offensive line. If this unit can play as it did at Wisconsin, the Cougars have a chance. If it does not, there is no chance at all.
BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, under the gun to turn Wilson loose, maintains it is balance that will get BYU’s offense where it needs to be.
“For us to be effective, we’ve got to be a balanced offense,” said Grimes. “We didn’t run the ball well enough in our last game. That affects our consistency when we’re not running the ball well enough.
"We didn’t convert on third down. That’s far and away the worst phase of our game right now. We’re not converting enough on third down. We collectively have to get better on third down.”
BYU’s defense has actually been one of the bright spots this season despite a lack of sacks or pressure.
With a prevent-type scheme, the Cougars rank 26th nationally in total defense, 45th in rush defense, 30th in pass defense, and 60th in pass efficiency defense.
Conversely, Boise State’s pass efficiency defense is 96th, 68th in pass defense and 44th in total defense.
This week, BYU coach Kalani Sitake used the word “consistency” 18 times when addressing the focus the Cougars need on offense after the 7-6 loss to Northern Illinois.
If the Cougars are to upset BSU on the blue turf, they’ll need to score in the high 30s, get turnovers and sacks, and play solid defense. You can see the Cougars getting some defensive highlights, but the other two have been rare.
Utah’s resurgence came when its offensive productivity began to take pressure off Morgan Scalley’s defense, which was solid. Once the use of Zack Moss became a focus for defenses, Britain Covey was not the only thing opponents had to worry about because that opened up things for other pass catchers. That diversity of attack made Utah a point producer and tough to beat.
Arizona State has some explosive players in receiver N’Keal Harry and quarterback Manny Wilkins. But these are players Utah’s defense has proven capable of disrupting.
The emergence of Moss and his consistency has proven a nightmare for defenses. He ranks seventh nationally in rushing yards per game (120.5) and ASU’s defense is yielding 156.3 per game on the ground.
Moss should get about 130 come Saturday, and that will provide Kyle Whittingham the comfort zone to put ASU’s defense in disarray.
Utah State is on a roll and while any trip to Hawaii has its minefield for the traveling team, the Aggies are disciplined and confident enough to ride over and back with a solid victory.
USU’s offense remains consistent and explosive.
How scary will USU’s offense be against a Hawaii defense that gave up 49 points to BYU, which was starting a true freshman quarterback and six other freshmen? Hawaii ranks 103rd in total defense, allowing 4,392 yards, 6.4 yards per play, 43 touchdowns and 439 yards per game.
You can figure out the math. Jordan Love will get whatever he wants in Honolulu.
This week’s picks:
Auburn 28, Texas A&M 21: Aggies find road issues.
Kentucky 31, Georgia 28: Wildcats with the upset.
Texas 28, West Virginia 21: Longhorns play tough defense at home.
Purdue 33, Iowa 31: Urban Meyer killers lurking.11 comments on this story
Notre Dame 38, Northwestern 27: Golden Domers explode.
Oregon 42, UCLA 24: Ducks reeling but take flight.
LSU 34, Alabama 31: Out-on-a-limb Tiger pick.
Washington 34, Stanford 21: Chris Petersen reinvents a win.
USC 28, Oregon State 24: How did Beavers beat Colorado?
Washington State 47, California 21: Mike Leach is a genius.
Utah State 51, Hawaii 28: Aggies get sunburned, doesn’t matter.
Utah 34, Arizona State 24: Devils can’t stop Zack Moss.
Boise State 38, BYU 28: Cougars improve but still fall short.
Last week: 9 for 14; overall: 87 for 140 (.619)