BYU vs. Stanford: Tale of the Tape

Play at the line of scrimmage and point of attack on the offensive line for both teams will likely determine the outcome of this game tomorrow in Provo.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Cardinal's most experienced and talented offensive lineman is Kirk Chambers, a native of Provo. Chambers begins his senior season as a four-year starter at left tackle. He will be a load and it should make for an entertaining match-up opposite BYU's All-American candidate defensive end Brady Poppinga.

Stanford's line experience drops off sharply without Chambers. He is backed up by true freshman Matt McClernan on the left side and Jon Cochran, a redshirt freshman, on the right side. Neither McClernan and Cochran have played a down of college football.

Another line position includes Ismael Simpson, a true freshman. He is backed up by another true freshman. The center position is manned by sophomore Brian Head who, like Simpson, is coming off his first start two weeks ago versus the San Jose State Spartans. He is backed up by Drew Caylor, converted from defensive end where he has played the past two seasons.

The right guard position is manned by Jeff Edwards, a redshirt freshman. His back-up is also a true freshman. The right tackle position has more experience in Mike Sullivan, a senior. His first game as a starter was at San Jose State several weeks ago. His back-up is a true freshman with no game experience.

BYU's offensive front all of the sudden looks like a bunch of wily veterans compared to Stanford. They have been spotty at times, but have worked well together with flashes of brilliance in moments during three tough games to start this season.

Some of the Cougars offensive line woes can be attributed to missed assignments because of poor communication. BYU head coach Gary Crowton has remedied it by playing senior Vincent Xanthos in the game alongside true freshman Ofa Mohetau, whenever he enters the game.

The upside of BYU's offensive line is tremendous. As they learn to work together this year, they will gel into a dominant unit. Few people doubt the talent; it's just learning to work together, with everyone on the same page in their blocking assignments.

While we haven't seen Stanford's young offensive line play this year, we have done the math: Four starters with only one game-experience under their collective belts against a young-but-powerful BYU defensive front.

EDGE: BYU

QUARTERBACKS

Both freshman quarterbacks are young and talented.

Stanford starts redshirt freshman Trent Edwards, compared favorably with BYU's Ben Olson by recruiting analysts coming out of high school. While he is inexperienced with only one game under his belt, Edwards has had a full year learning the Cardinal's offensive system.

BYU's John Beck, on the other hand, is a true freshman thrown into the proverbial fire because of a broken hand injury to starter Matt Berry. Beck could surprise and shock a little of Cardinal fans who know little about him. Then again, he is also susceptible to typical freshman mistakes.

Beck has a stronger arm and is more mobile than Berry, who will miss at least three games. So why isn't Beck starting and why shouldn't fans be flipping cartwheels as Beck enters his first game as the starter? Simply put, Berry is much further ahead of Beck in his quarterback reads and development.

Beck, however, will be exciting. He will show better movement and escapability. He'll make mistakes, but he'll make big plays. At best, BYU sacrifices Berry's calm consistency for Beck's gun-slinging type of play with many ups and downs. At worst, BYU sacrifices Berry's calm consistency for a quarterback who can't stay in the pocket, may try to hit the "big one" more often than is warranted. The Cougars offensive brain trust will slowly bring Beck along and keep him safely within his comfort zone of skills.

EDGE: Stanford

TIGHT ENDS

Stanford has two very good tight ends in Brett Pierce and Alex Smith. Both are upper classmen and have earned preseason mention as among the best in the PAC-10 conference. Due to their productivity, Stanford employs a one-back, two-tight end set as their base formation.

BYU has Daniel Coats. We jumped on the Coats bandwagon head first after his first two games, but he was brought back down the earth last week against New Mexico. We believe that Coats will rebound and have a productive game tomorrow.

EDGE: Stanford

WIDE RECEIVERS

Stanford has one of the leading receivers in the country in Luke Powell, who recorded 12 receptions for 172 yards against SJSU. Powell is joined by speedsters Gerren Crochet and Nick Sebes, who were both part of Stanford's record-setting 4x100 meter relay team.

BYU has solid guys that will run sharp routes and catch the ball. Chris Hale is starting to show signs of breaking out and becoming a real go-to type of receiver and someone that can burn you downfield. Rod Wilkerson has been consistent as have Toby and David Christensen – who are not related.

SLIGHT EDGE: Stanford

RUNNING BACKS

Stanford returns JR Lemon, who is fresh off a 103-yard rushing effort against SJSU with the experienced Kenneth Tolon adding depth. They both rotate in Stanford's one-back offense.

While Lemon's numbers were impressive, they came against SJSU. Meanwhile BYU's Reynaldo Brathwaite has been a revelation and almost single-handedly won the game last week against New Mexico for BYU. Marcus Whalen will return this game with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, depending on whether his injury allows his to return to full speed and production. Naufahu Tahi will play fullback.

EDGE: BYU

DEFENSIVE LINE

Stanford has a big defensive line that helped limit SJSU to only 9-yards two weeks ago. Their front is big, averaging more than 281 pounds in their starting four-man front. While we're impressed with their stature, we feel the pass rush may be lacking as they only managed one sack against pass happy SJSU. Again, not much can be determined about this front after just one game played against a weaker opponent.

This is where we believe BYU tips the scales in the match-ups. We love BYU's defensive line as they controlled the line of scrimmage against USC and Georgia Tech and held stiff against New Mexico without injured Manaia Brown, who has been totally dominant when he's healthy. Brown is probable for Saturday's game. The defensive line is where BYU has its biggest advantage over Stanford.

EDGE: BYU

LINEBACKERS

Stanford is led by Kevin Schimmelmann from his outside linebacker position. He is a bit undersized, but is sort of a Colby Bockwoldt clone in that he's very fast sideline-to-sideline.

BYU's linebacking corps is led by a trio of seniors in Levi Madarieta, Mike Tanner and Colby Bockwoldt. The one starting to make some noise is true freshman KC Bills. He is seeing more reps during games and with the first team in practice.

EDGE: BYU

SECONDARY

Without much knowledge beyond them holding SJSU to 261 yards passing, this unit is hard to figure. They return three starters to their secondary.

BYU has Jon Burbidge and Aaron Francisco playing like all-conference performers, with James Allen coming on strong with Jernaro Gilford, Chad Barney and Nate Soelberg holding the outside.

EDGE: BYU

We feel that BYU's formidable defensive front coupled with Mendenhall's unusual scheme will prove rather daunting for Stanford's freshman quarterback inexperienced offensive line. We look for Edwards to make some mistakes.

Before the season started, we had this pegged as a potential breakout game for Matt Berry and the BYU offense as Stanford plays from a more traditional front – and isn't the class of a Georgia Tech, USC or New Mexico defensively.

Beck and the rest of the offense should prove equal to the task as the three game experience BYU has against quality opponents in all three games proves to be a defining factor over Stanford's single game against a patsy.

BYU 34 - Stanford 13

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