The Cougar ground game has been decent but not spectacular or dominant by any evaluation through the first four games. They'll look to change that Friday, as a more productive ground game will work to keep a lot of pressure off of Jake Heaps and the struggling Cougar passing attack and allow them to make plays.
The Aggies will present a basic 4-3 system with a light hybrid-type linebacker. They had a decent outing against San Diego State but got pushed around pretty good by Fresno State, indicating that they can be had for big yardage on the ground.
Everyone is talking about the Cougar passing attack and how it needs to get better, but the key in this game will be the ground attack. Anytime a team attempts 45 passes in a game like the Cougars did last week, it usually spells meager overall offensive production.
The Cougars will need to run it well and often if they hope to put up the points fans have been accustomed to over the years. The offensive line has been hyped a lot, and this is the game where they really need to assert themselves to the tune of a dominating run-blocking performance.
Fans should see that dominating running attack to the tune of close to 200 yards. Both Fresno State and Oklahoma were able to eat up chunks of yardage on the ground, and BYU should be able to do the same.
BYU passing attack vs. Utah State
The passing attack showed signs of improvement last week against Nevada, but they still have miles to go to resemble a true BYU passing attack. The lack of rhythm has affected the accuracy and timing adversely, but that should be much improved this week as Jake Heaps continues to settle in.
The Aggies will present a predominant press-man coverage that fans can expect to be very physical. Head coach Gary Anderson helped formulate the type of coverages Utah has run against BYU over the past few years, and fans can expect Anderson to employ the same principles on Friday.
Given the type of coverage they run, the Aggies can be beat deep, as San Diego State showed last week. The deep ball has been all but non-existent for BYU so far this season, but the pickings should be ripe for deep opportunities Friday night.
An effective run attack should go a long way in opening up deep opportunities. It's easy to like McKay Jacobson breaking out with a big game here if he can prove able to get off the line effectively. Look for Coach Anae to limit the pass attempts on a whole, which should ironically lead to better overall pass production.
BYU run defense vs. Utah State
BYU didn't give up big gains against Nevada last week on individual runs, but did give up a steady stream of 5-to-7 yard runs that kept them on the field while cutting back opportunities for the offense. That will have to change, as this defense needs to account for more three-and-outs than we've seen through four games.
Utah State will present a running quarterback in Diondre Borel, so what else is new for a Cougar defense that has had to account for the best running quarterbacks in the country every game this year? Borel is running it often, but hasn't been able to put up ridiculous yardage and did get caught behind the line of scrimmage quite a bit against the Aztecs.
Their primary running back is Darrvin Speight (5-9, 209 Sr.), who has rushed for 221 yards on a 4.1-yard average this year. He'll rotate with fellow senior Michael Smith (5-8, 195), who has rushed for 153 yards with an average of 6.4 yards per rush this season.
This is a scary area for the Cougars, who were vulnerable up the middle prior to Romney Fuga's season-ending injury, but will now have to make do without him. Their overall containment of rushing quarterbacks has been spotty and they'll have to improve upon that, as Borel should be looking to run the ball often.
BYU pass defense vs. Utah State
The Cougar pass defense has been better than it has been in most years so far this season, but with a subpar rushing defense, their accomplishments have been diminished somewhat. They'll have to make do without Steven Thomas at free safety and Jameson Frazier, who has proven to be one of the better outside linebackers in coverage they've had.
Utah State's passing attack has been somewhat mediocre, with Borel completing just more than 50 percent of his passes for just over 200 yards per game. In a lot of those games the Aggies have had to play catch-up, so the yards gained through the air may be a bit misleading.
Their leading receivers will be sophomore Dontel Watkins (6-2, 193), junior Eric Moats (5-11, 183) and junior Xavier Martin (5-11, 195).
The Aggies will present a passing attack that has been spotty in their production at best. The Cougars should be fine here, with the big concern being rushing yards yielded up the middle while containing Borel on the edges.
Make no mistake about the fact that Utah State has been preparing for this game for the better part of the offseason. This is a huge game for them and they'll be pulling out all the stops in order to secure a victory.
With BYU struggling mightily coming in, there is a lot to be nervous about when considering the venue and the preparation and emotion Utah State will bring to the field. That said, they are still Utah State and haven't been impressive at all since a promising opening outing against Oklahoma.
Final score prediction: BYU 27, Utah State 23