1) Short week: There are pros and cons to the short week for both teams. Having to travel is probably BYU's biggest handicap, but the short week really hurts Boise State as they try to get their relatively inexperienced quarterback ready for the Cougars' 3-3-5 defense.
2) Bronco Mendenhall: Last year was Bronco's first year dealing with short game weeks at BYU. By his own admission, Mendenhall said he made some mistakes in game preparation for Colorado State and Boise State. He has learned his lessons and will have his defense ready to go against BSU.
3) Injuries: One really good result from the first three games is that BYU hasn't had any year-ending injuries so far. I like the fact that BYU head coach Gary Crowton doesn't have to alter his game plan because of injuries – like he had to against BSU last year.
4) BYU secondary: I really liked the pass coverage that BYU showed against USC and their big/fast receivers. The two sacks we had on Matt Leinart and all of his scrambles were partially because of good coverage downfield. The Cougars can vary its defense more and keep BSU's offense from getting a read on what it is doing.
5) How good is BSU? I don't think we know yet how good Boise State is. Are they as good as last year? Are they really Top 25 good? At first glance, they look very impressive. But a closer look, in my opinion, blurs the conclusion. BSU beat Idaho, a Div. IAA team, easily in their season opener at home, and struggled last week against a weak UTEP team on the road. BSU's best win came at home against a pretty good Pac-10 team in Oregon State. But consider that while BSU was playing reserves in the second half at home against Idaho, Oregon State lost a heartbreaker at Louisiana State and had a short prep week (Friday game) with travel. I think the BSU win over OSU comes with a big asterisk next to it. BSU is riding high, but I think they are ripe for an upset.
6) 261: The BSU starting defensive line averages 261 pounds. Compare that to USC's defensive line (283 pounds), Notre Dame's defensive line (275 pounds) and BYU's starting offensive line (312 pounds). Moreover, the USC and Notre Dame lines are probably quicker and faster than what BSU will offer. I don't expect sheer domination from BYU's offensive line, but I think we'll see BYU's offensive line performance improve and we will start to see a running game emerge - which will make a big difference in time of possession and scoring in the red zone.
7) Man coverage: BSU plays a lot of man coverage. I'm not sure they've got anyone who can stay with Todd Watkins consistently. Look for "Beck-to-Watkins" to have a big day.
8) John Beck: I expect John to make a big improvement against Boise State, especially considering he won't be facing a defense as physical or fast as Notre Dame's or USC's.
9) 50-12: Boise State laid it on BYU pretty good last year on national TV. BYU will be playing for respect and redemption this time around.
10) Jeff Cavender vs. Manaia Brown: BSU's starting right tackle, Jeff Cavender, is a 6-2, 275 pound freshman (one of two freshmen to start on the BSU offensive line. I think Manaia Brown and Shaun Nua match up really well against Boise State's offensive line and will have a big night stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.
5 Reasons Why BYU May Not Win
1) Turnovers: BYU made some progress between the Stanford and USC games, but they need to resolve the continuing problems at center snap. Boise State turned the ball over four times last week against UTEP and turnovers may very well be the key to the game.
2) Coaching: Boise State is well coached and won't beat themselves. They know how to maximize their talent and hide their weaknesses. They will have a good game plan for BYU.
3) Confidence: Like USC, Boise State is a confident team that won't panic. They know how to win and they expect to win.
4) Bronco Stadium: While not imposing in terms of size, the stadium will be full with 30,000 fans who, no doubt, will be highly motivated and vocal in support of Boise State. BYU will need to stay composed in a difficult environment.
5) Big Plays: Boise State will try to take advantage of BYU's aggressive defense and will undoubtedly hit some big plays. Again, composure in the face of adversity will be the key for BYU.
The combination of BYU's good defense with an inexperienced Boise State quarterback puts the breaks, somewhat, on BSU's high octane offense. While I expect both teams to hit big plays, I don't see a Boise State answer for Todd Watkins. BYU upsets BSU 35-24.
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