BYU vs. Stanford: Odds and Edges

The Cougars take on the Cardinal Saturday night in a pivotal matchup that may largely determine their future fortunes for the rest of this season. Here is a position-by-position preview of how they stack up and a prediction for the game.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE:

Stanford:
The Cardinal have a big one starting in their 3-4 scheme in Babatunde Oshinowo, a 6-2, 320 pound junior. He will split time with sophomore Nick Frank, who is 6-3, 275 pounds. Oshinowo is a stud in the middle. He has received several defensive accolades starting as a sophomore anchoring Stanford's defense that shut down BYU's running game a year ago. Frank also gained valuable experienced as a sophomore, playing in 10 of 11 games last season.

BYU:
Hala Paongo started last week against Notre Dame and was backed up by Vince Feula and Daniel Marquardt. There was no pre-game confirmation which one will start tonight. In any event, the Cougar defensive tackles were dominant against Notre Dame. Having three nose tackles they can rotate frequently without losing much is a huge advantage. Feula fared very well shutting down the point of attack against the Irish while Paongo did the same. Look for Marquardt to get more reps than he did last week as he recovers from an injury that held him out throughout fall camp.

EDGE: BYU. Stanford's middle is impressive, but the slight edge goes to BYU.

DEFENSIVE ENDS:

Stanford:
The Cardinal features Julian Jenkins, 6-4, 275 pound junior, and Scott Scharff, 6-5, 283 pound senior, as their starting defensive ends tonight. Both were reserves last season that saw plenty of playing time.

BYU:
Manaia Brown leads this unit with Shaun Nua, John Denney and Justin Carlson-Maddux at the defensive end position.

EDGE: BYU. Manaia Brown is for real is the primary reason why BYU gets the edge over Stanford. He will continue to have the edge over most future opponents this season – if not all of them. This looks to be Stanford's weakest defensive position on an otherwise solid defense.

LINEBACKER:

Stanford:
This is the strength of the Cardinal defense with four returning starters. Their outstanding linebacker play is perhaps the main factor that motivated Stanford's from a solid 4-3 alignment a season ago to a 3-4 alignment this year.

The outside linebackers are Jon Alston a 6-1, 215 pound junior, and Jared Newberry, a 6-2, 235 pound senior. Alston will play the weak side while Newberry mans the strong side of the line. Newberry is a returning starter and Alston was the fourth linebacker from a season ago used primarily in passing situations.

The middle linebacker position is manned by senior David Bergeron who is 6-4, 245 pounds, and junior Kevin Schimmelmann, who weighs in at 6-3, 215 pounds. Schimmelmann is the quicker of the two having played his first season as a safety, starting six games last from at OLB position. Bergeron is a returning starter who tallied 66 tackles last season.

BYU:
Brady Poppinga, Cameron Jensen, Markell Staffieri and Justin Luettgerodt will again be the primary Cougar linebackers tonight. Poppinga was named the MWC Player of the Week and Jensen proved his preseason hype was warranted playing very effectively from the middle linebacker position.

EDGE: EVEN. Stanford's linebackers are experienced and tough while BYU's are young, inexperienced, but extremely talented.

SAFETIES:

Stanford:
Senior Oshiomogho Atogwe, at 6-0, 205 pounds, is arguably Stanford's best defensive player and acknowledged defensive leader for the Cardinal. He'll start at free safety for his third straight season. He was a second-team All-PAC-10 selection and is now considered one of the top safeties in the nation. The starting strong safety is sophomore Brandon Harrison, 6-2, 205 pounds, who was a backup in all 11 games last season.

BYU:
b><Jon Burbidge and Aaron Francisco are as formidable as any safety tandem in college football. Burbidge usually gets second-billing, but broke out in the spotlight last week against Notre Dame. Spencer White is serviceable at the katback position opposite Burbidge, but has yet to be tested this season.

EDGE: BYU. While Atogwe is as good a safety that BYU will see all season, two is better than one. The Cougars have two dominant safeties in seniors Burbidge and Francisco.

CORNERBACKS:

Stanford: Seniors Stanley Torrence, 6-0, 183 pounds, and Stanley Wilson, 6-0, 189 pounds, start for Stanford. Both are starters and are very solid in a defense that ranked No. 28 nationally against the pass a season ago.

BYU:
Brandon Heaney is a very experienced cornerback and is one of the leaders of the Cougar defense. He is joined by junior Nathan Soelberg, a first-year starter who played very well against Notre Dame in the season opener.

EDGE: STANFORD. Two three-year starters says it all.

PUNTER:

Stanford:
Redshirt freshman Jay Ottovegio.

BYU:
Senior Matt Payne is one of the better punters in the country and also nailed two field goals over 40 yards last week against Notre Dame, earning MWC Player of the Week honors.

Edge: BYU.

KICKER:

Stanford:
Michael Sgroi is a 5-11, 200 pound junior who was 7-13 in field goal attempts last season with a long of 38 yards.

BYU:
Matt Payne is arguably the best field goal kicker in the nation.

EDGE: BYU. Not even close.

QUARTERBACK:

Stanford:
Trent Edwards, at 6-4, 210 pounds, came to Stanford ranked just behind Ben Olson the most famous BYU quarterback never to have taken a snap for BYU. Edwards struggled mightily against Mendenhall's 3-3-5 scheme last season, but after a strong outing in the San Jose State opener, is proving his worth as one of the best quarterbacking talents of his class. If he's not ready to go, redshirt freshman T.C. Ostrander will lead the Cardinal.

BYU: Junior Matt Berry will likely start in place of injured John Beck. He was the 2003 starter.

EDGE: STANFORD. Only if Edwards starts for Stanford. If not, BYU gets the nod with Berry at the helm for the Cougars.

OFFENSIVE LINE:
Stanford:
The Cardinal have four sophomores – LT Jon Cochran (6-6, 315 pounds); LG Ismail Simpson (6-4, 290 pounds); RG Josiah Vinson (6-4, 310 pounds); and RT Jeff Edwards (6-7, 290 pounds); and junior at center in Brian Head (6-4, 295 pounds). Four of them started for the Cardinal last season.

BYU:
Their Cougar counterparts are largely inexperienced and had a mediocre outing against a formidable Notre Dame front seven.

EDGE: STANFORD. They have experience on their side and BYU's front five have yet to prove themselves.

RUNNING BACK:

Stanford:
The Cardinal's best running back is Kenneth Tolon, a senior who can do it all. At 6-1, 210 pounds, he was one of the better running backs in the Pac-10 last season. Junior J.R. Lemon, 6-1, 225 pounds, will also see reps. Fullback duties will be handled by Kris Bonifas, 6-1, 235 pounds, and redshirt freshman Emeka Nnoli, 6-1, 230 pounds.

BYU:
The Cougars counter with Naufahu Tahi and Curtis Brown as their running backs out of the backfield. Moa Peaua will be the featured fullback.

EDGE: STANFORD. Both Tolon and Lemon are coming of successful outings against San Jose State last week. Tahi and Brown will try and get their running game untracked against the Cougars.

TIGHT END:

Stanford:
The Cardinal have one of the country's best in senior Alex Smith, a 6-5, 255 pounder who looks to continue the Stanford tradition of producing top caliber tight ends for future NFL success. Smith has 59 career receptions and will be a primary option on offense.

BYU:
Daniel Coats had a solid game last week coming of a promising freshman campaign. He can be very good at times, but sometimes disappears and drops easy catches in critical situations. Freshman Dennis Pitta will be his backup.

EDGE: STANFORD. While Coats can be very good, even dominant at times, Smith is more consistent.

WIDE RECEIVERS:

Stanford:
Evan Moore, at 6-7, 235 pounds, is the guy that could cause BYU's secondary the most problems. He had seven catches last week and he'll be joined by Mark Bradford, a 6-2, 190 pound sophomore speedster. Bradford had a very good freshman campaign for the Cardinal.

BYU:
Todd Watkins leads an upgraded Cougar receiving corps after his impressive debut against Notre Dame last Saturday. The top talent at BYU is young, but potentially explosive. Freshman Austin Collie also fared well in his debut. Another true freshman, Antwaun Harris, is expected to be another major contributor along with veterans Jason Kukahiko, Chris Hale and Rod Wilkerson.

EDGE: BYU. Moore and Bradford are impressive, but Watkins, Collie et al will likely steal the show.

PREDICTION: BYU 23, Stanford 17.

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