What to watch for

When BYU takes on the Cougars of Washington State Thursday night, there will be some key matchups battling out on the field. Total Blue Sports takes a look at a few of them.

Let's take a look at some interesting matchups that should take place out on the field of battle when the Cougars of Washington State face the Cougars of BYU.

Long vs. Brown

Coming in at 6 feet 4 inches and 245 pounds, senior Buck linebacker Travis Long is the star of the Washington State defense and a former second-team all-Pac-12 selection. Long also has NFL potential and is rated by at least one source as the 13th best outside linebacker prospect in next year's NFL draft.

Reports out of Washington State have suggested that although Long is a Buck linebacker, the defensive coaches like to line him up on the outside with his hand on the ground. Since BYU quarterback Riley Nelson is left-handed, he'll have his back towards Long when he takes the snap. Given the task of protecting Nelson's backside will be 6-foot-6-inch, 300-pound right tackle Braden Brown. Brown is a senior and experienced starter, and it will be vital that he keep Long locked up when he's pressuring or blitzing on third-and-long situations.

Monroe & Oertel vs. Pritchard

I've picked both of Washington State's middle linebackers for two reasons. First, WSU nose guard Anthony Laurenzi has been dismissed and replaced by a J.C. transfer Ioane Gauta, who has yet to play a single Division I college football game. Secondly, if BYU attacks the middle of the field with the ground game, it will be with a one-two punch with 6-foot, 245-pound fullback Iona Pritchard and 6-foot-1-inch, 220-pound running back Michael Alisa.

Given the task of taking on a bruising Pritchard will be 6-foot-1-inch, 228-pound redshirt freshman Darryl Monroe, and 6-foot-1-inch, 210-pound junior Eric Oertel. If BYU is successful with the ground game attacking the middle of the WSU defense, both Monroe and Oertel will get to know Pritchard really well.

Gauta vs. Tushaus

As mentioned before, Gauta is a first year Division I player. As a nose guard, he'll have the responsibility of anchoring the WSU defense. Gauta comes in at 6 feet 3 inches and 302 pounds. He'll be facing Blair Tushaus, who comes in at 6 feet 2 inches and 270 pounds. Tushaus gives up 30 pounds to Gauta, but has more experience at the Division I level. Tushaus will have the responsibility of opening up holes in the middle.

Horton vs. Apo

BYU Cougar fans are expecting this to be a breakout season for Ross Apo. He'll be facing 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound junior Damante Horton out on the field side. Horton has a lot of experience, having seen playing time since his freshman year. If Apo is to stretch the field, he'll have to beat one of Washington State's best cover corners in Horton.

Oertel vs. Friel

Coming in at 6 feet 5 inches and 250 pounds, tight end Kaneakua Friel was named the starting tight end heading into the Washington State game. He will be facing 6-foot-1-inch, 210-pound Sam linebacker Eric Oertel. Sam linebackers are generally supposed to be the strongest in order to take on tight ends. However, Oertel gives up 40 pounds to a very athletic Friel, who is very comfortable at the three-point stance and flexed out at the y-receiver position. This will be a matchup of who can be the most physical and play better in space.

Marks vs. Johnson

Wide receiver Gabe Marks is a true freshman, but reports out of Washington State suggest he is very talented. He beat out two returning players on the WSU roster for the starting job, which means there is some ability there. He'll be facing BYU's most talented cornerback in Jordan Johnson out on the field side.

Galvin vs. Ogletree or Sampson

At the slot for WSU will be Ricky Galvin. Coming in at 5 feet 8 inches and 178 pounds, Galvin will attack the middle of BYU's defense. If BYU isn't in the nickel package, the task of covering Galvin, who is a former running back, will belong to Uona Kaveinga and Brandon Ogletree. Ogletree has struggled in the past with coverage in the flats, so this will be an interesting matchup to keep an eye on.

BYU will run the nickel package this game, and so the matchup could be more favorable with Joe Sampson in coverage. Sampson could be the key factor in the covering the h-receiver in space, alleviating some of the pressure on the bigger middle linebackers.

Lintz vs. Hadley

Andrei Lintz is a 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pound tight end that will be flexed out at the y-receiver position when not attached to the offensive line. He'll be facing 6-foot-1-inch, 227-pound Sam linebacker Spencer Hadley. Much like the Friel vs. Oertel matchup, this will be a matchup of size verses speed, and should be a good battle when Lintz goes into his passing routes.

Fullington vs. Van Noy

John Fullington will be playing left tackle and is considered the most talented on the Washington State offensive line. He's been given the task of protecting his quarterback's blindside from BYU defensive sensation Kyle Van Noy. At 6 feet 3 inches and 245 pounds, the BYU Will linebacker is known for his rushing prowess and is considered the best linebacker among a talented and deep group of linebackers found at BYU.

Taliulu vs. Hoffman

If Washington State goes to a man-zone defense, there is a chance that free safety Taylor Taliulu could be matched up with Cody Hoffman if Hoffman goes deep. Taliulu is a true freshman, while Hoffman is an experienced junior and BYU's leading receiver last season. This scenario will pit youth against experience.

Let the games begin.


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