10 REASONS WHY BYU WILL BEAT CSU:
1) 16-0 - No, there are no moral victories in football. But there are lessons learned. Under the circumstances surrounding this team, this year, BYU could have easily thrown in the towel when they were down 16-0 in the first quarter at BSU. That they came back and should have won the game is, to me, a testament to this team's heart and character. This team is going to give their best effort every game – starting Saturday in Fort Collins.
2) One more day - The extra day between games comes at a good time. It evens out the prep time (CSU had meetings on Sunday), but most importantly it will help the team recover emotionally from what was a hugely disappointing game last Friday.
3) Matt Payne - Matt Payne remains the best special teams player in the conference. His miss last Friday will steel him for the upcoming conference campaign. He is a huge weapon for the Cougars and, at some point this season, one of his field goals will decide a game in the Cougars favor. Under the same circumstances as last week, I have no problem with Crowton playing for the winning field goal against CSU.
4) Gary Crowton - As competitive as Coach C is, I also think he has gone into this season with a very pragmatic approach to the schedule. For this team with this schedule, a conference championship was, and still is, the reachable goal – not an undefeated season. As such, I think we'll see some new wrinkles to the CSU game plan that we have not seen yet this season; maybe a few things to help the running game and to take advantage of the defensive focus on Todd Watkins that is sure to come.
5) John Beck - Stepping away from the emotion of the game against BSU, I think it we learned a lot about Beck. First, though his arm is clearly still not at 100 percent, we did see a noticeable physical improvement from the USC game. Secondly, I thought Beck's decision-making and composure also improved. In football terms, he is still a pretty inexperienced quarterback. If he continues to grow as he did last week, I think we are really going to have something special. As it is, CSU is going to have to defend much more space than they have in many years against BYU.
6) CSU isn't CSU - Sonny Lubick built the CSU program around a sound defense and strong running game. The reality this season is that both the CSU defense and running game are suspect. CSU is allowing 434 total yards per game and only averaging a shade under 83 rushing yards per game. Against Montana State last week – a pretty weak Div. IAA team, CSU could only manage 85 yards rushing after their first drive (143 total) and gave up 308 total yards and 17 first downs. BYU is better defensively than the Rams and is more dangerous on offense as CSU has no one who compares to Watkins.
7) 58-13 and 37-10 - These are the scores from the last two BYU-CSU games. Last year's game must particularly be memorable for Bronco Mendenhall and the Cougar defense as this was the game that they were most dramatically exposed and beaten. I expect the team will be focused and energized for an opponent that has been a superior team for the last two years.
8) Turnovers and penalties - BYU has made marked improvement from the Stanford game in these mental statistics. A clean sheet on offense (turnovers) and two takeaways on defense is a recipe for success. CSU is not immune to the turnover bug – having given up nine interceptions and three fumbles in four games.
9) No Sunshine - Love him or hate him, you had to respect the moxie and athleticism that Bradlee Van Pelt provided the Rams as their quarterback. We haven't seen those qualities yet from his replacement, Justin Holland. In fact, Holland is not much of a running threat at all. Leinhart (USC), Edwards (Stanford), and Zabransky (BSU) all were able to hurt BYU somewhat with their scrambling. Holland doesn't fit that mold and will be a big target for BYU's blitz. CSU gave up three sacks last week to Montana State and I suspect that Holland will spend a lot of time on the ground Saturday night.
10) CSU Injuries - CSU has had a number of injuries so far this season, especially to their offensive line and linebackers. Last week against Montana State, CSU played a walk-on sophomore linebacker extensively and have almost no depth.
AND 5 REASONS WHY THEY MAY NOT …
1) CSU Zone Blitz - Beck is going to see a very different defense from what he has seen so far this season. CSU will start out protecting the deep ball, playing their zone blitz and forcing BYU to put together drives. The zone blitz can be tricky - and John will need to make good reads; be patient and stay disciplined. If he does, then CSU will have to change up their defense and the big plays will be there.
2) Justin Holland to David Anderson - Holland has a good arm and has been in the CSU system for three years, so he's not a novice. Anderson runs great routes and has good speed. I expect CSU to try to take advantage of BYU's defensive aggressiveness and isolate Anderson one-on-one with our cornerbacks. If Holland gets time to throw, this combination will be dangerous. Anderson suffered an abdominal injury against Montana State. If this impacts his status for Saturday, that would be a major blow for CSU.
3) Sonny Lubick - Lubick is a great coach and always has his teams ready, especially for BYU. This isn't as talented a CSU team as he's had in the past, but he knows how to maximize his talent and game plan an opponent. If he can generate a rush attack against BYU, then it will be a long night for BYU.
4) No BYU run game - The biggest puzzle of the 2004 BYU Cougars is the running game. On paper, the offensive line looks to have the physical presence to be at least minimally successful run blocking. I think Curtis Brown has the game to be good for 4-5 yards a carry. But to date, the run game has been just above non-existent. Establishing at least some rush threat is important for so many reasons: opening up the passing game; controlling the clock; and scoring in the red zone – to name three. If this doesn't improve, the Cougars will continue to be vulnerable to outcomes such as what happened in the BSU game.
5) Special Teams - CSU is known for having the best special teams in the conference with a history of timely blocks. BYU will need to be very careful in kick protection and coverage to avoid giving up any cheap scores.
In a game in which neither team can run the ball, BYU has more weapons on offense and is in Holland's face all night on defense. BYU wins the turnover battle. John Beck continues to show why he's "the man" and BYU takes the first step to a conference championship. BYU 30, CSU 17.
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