PROVO — It will be Utah’s defense against BYU’s slow-starting, scoring-impaired offense, and Utah State could be in trouble at Boise State after injuries in the Aggie secondary.
Utah is heavily favored to get an eighth-straight win over the Cougars, and Utah State really needs to walk out of Albertsons Stadium with a rare win on the Smurf Turf to advance to the MWC championship game.
Yes, the Cougars start slow, but the Utah offense has had its share of slow starts this season as well. It is a rivalry game and according to history, anything can happen.
For the Cougars, a couple of big scores against the weaker part of the schedule has been a depository of confidence for freshman Zach Wilson and an offense that has used freshmen as half of the starting 11. But even during wins at UMass and against New Mexico State, the Cougars couldn’t score early. Against Utah, that could spell disaster.
Utah’s highly touted defense should lock down BYU’s receivers. If not called for holding, a familiar penalty this year on Ute corners, that will be enough to throw off Wilson’s timing. A fresh Chase Hansen involved in pressure and stopping the run will give the Cougars all kinds of trouble in the run and pass game.
Utah’s offense can be explosive, but BYU’s defense has climbed up the rankings all season and is now 23rd in the NCAA. But the soft zone and defenders committed to stopping the run may limit the ability to pressure Utah quarterback Jason Shelley. That approach turned ugly in losses to Washington and Utah State.
BYU should have defeated Boise State if not for a breakdown inside the Broncos' 3-yard-line in the closing seconds. The scary thing here is Utah ranks No. 1 nationally in red-zone defense.
Almost every number you can draw up favors the Utes in this one, mainly because of Morgan Scalley’s defense, which ranks 14th in total defense, fifth in rush defense, and 16th in scoring defense. That will be applied against a Cougar offense that ranks 101st in offense, 86th in the rush and 96th in passing.
In Boise, the Aggie offense has plenty in the tank to win this game. If it is a race on the scoreboard, the Aggies will win, and it likely will be just that.
But injuries to the majority of USU’s secondary could give Boise State the edge with an easier path of resistance.
This week’s picks:
Michigan 28, Ohio State 24: Wolverines sniffing B10 title scent.
Georgia 34, Georgia Tech 14: Bulldogs blow up Tech’s option.
Boston College 28, Syracuse 17: Eagles claw Orangemen easily.
Wyoming 17, New Mexico 14: Cowboy defense too stout.
Appalachian State 27, Troy 21: Battle of the mighty mites.
Stanford 28, UCLA 24: Bruins will need flawless game.1 comment on this story
Alabama 42, Auburn 24: Will be over by the third quarter.
Penn State 34, Maryland 24: PSU speed proves the difference.
Arizona State 31, Arizona 28: Devils put the fork to Wildcats.
Wisconsin 28, Minnesota 21: Badgers rule northern plain.
California 31, Colorado 7: Buffs gave up in Utah game.
Notre Dame 38, Southern California: USC 5-stars spanked.
Boise State 34, Utah State 31: Aggie secondary banged up.
Utah 24, BYU 17: Even if close, Matt Gay can win it from Temple Square.
Last week 7 for 13; overall 113 for 153