10 REASONS BYU BEATS SDSU ...
1) 12 of 14, 236 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions: John Beck's confidence must be sky high after his stellar second half performance against Air Force. If he continues to show that same decisiveness, vision, touch and accuracy, this BYU offense will be hard to stop.
2) Rested and eager: The bye week came at a perfect time for BYU. It is nice to get a break before the stretch run, but it's especially good to get the break after a big win on the road. Emotionally, BYU should be ready to rock.
3) Pick your poison: What differentiates BYU and Utah versus the rest of the MWC is offensive balance. Every other team is one-dimensional offensively. As BYU now faces the better defenses in the league in San Diego State, New Mexico and Utah, offensive balance is what will allow the Cougars to continue to be successful. The SDSU defense has a very tough decision: concentrate on stopping Curtis Brown and the running game, or Todd Watkins, Austin Collie and the passing game. USC might be able to do both. I don't think SDSU can.
4) Injuries and more injuries: SDSU has been decimated by injuries. Their offensive line has been especially hard hit. In at least two games this year, they have had only five scholarship offensive linemen available to play!
In addition to the problems on the offensive line, San Diego State may also be without DE Martin Miller (shoulder); S Brett Strum; LB Joe Martin, S Reggie Grigsby (ankle), TE Jeremy Justice (shoulder), OT Will Robinson (shoulder) and S Marviel Underwood (knee). Like most of the MWC, depth is a problem at SDSU and there is a big drop off in performance with many of the backups who will have to play. Even if some of these guys play, they are not at 100 percent.
5) And a freshman shall lead them: A freshman quarterback, a banged up offensive line, and Bronco's 3-3-5 defense is not a recipe for a lot of San Diego State touchdowns. Redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin O'Connell struggled mightily against New Mexico's 3-3-5 two weeks ago. I expect more of the same on Saturday.
6) Special teams: San Diego State lost their game against Wyoming largely because of very poor punting. Special teams have been a problem for them all season. BYU should win the special teams battles, starting with kicker Matt Payne.
7) Who's your daddy? Let's face it, SDSU is just a team that BYU knows how to beat. The overall series record is 21-6-1. As MWC conference rivals, the record is 19-3-1, and 8 of the last 10 games are in favor of BYU. Even when the Cougars are bad (last year) or SDSU is good, BYU finds a way to pull out a victory.
8) No Hamilton: One offensive player for SDSU who could have been a difference maker for them this year is running back Lynell Hamilton, the MWC freshman of the year last year. He was very impressive before he got hurt. SDSU will start another freshman running back against BYU, though he is not as good as Hamilton and he may have problems with blitz protection.
9) Return of the tight end: BYU's tight ends had a good game against Air Force. As defenses focus on Watkins and Brown, look for more plays to Daniel Coats and Daniel Pitta.
10) Coach Crowton: I thought Crowton made the right calls against Air Force two weeks ago. He settled his team down emotionally at half time and brilliantly mixed up the pass/run play calls in the second half. I think he's got a good pulse on this team and I expect them to come out against San Diego State like they did in Colorado Springs.
... AND 5 REASONS WHY THEY MAY NOT
1) Turnovers: If BYU turns the ball over too much, this game could quickly become another UNLV debacle.
2) Kirk Morrison & Matt McCoy: I think SDSU will try to stop the BYU running game with just their front seven, including two very good linebackers in Kirk Morrison and Matt McCoy. If they are successful, they can use their safeties to help with Watkins and Collie and BYU's offense will struggle.
3) The Scrambler: Kevin O'Connell has played in every game this year, though he only started the last two for SDSU. Coach Tom Craft made the switch at least partially because O'Connell is much more mobile than their other quarterback Matt Dlugolecki. If O'Connell is able to avoid the BYU blitz and buy time, he has the arm and receivers to hurt BYU's secondary.
4) The Long Ball: SDSU has a strong tradition of athletic receivers and this year is no exception with Jeff Webb. Their other receiver, Robert Ortiz, is also pretty good. San Diego State probably believes they have a matchup advantage against BYU cornerbacks that they will try to exploit. Moreover, BYU's defense has been susceptible to the big play all season.
5) Are they really 2-6, 0-4? Even with their injuries, SDSU is probably better than their record indicates. They've got a good defense, but are young and inconsistent on offense. Statistically, the teams look even. Though out of bowl contention, SDSU will be motivated to finish the season strong and reverse the slide they are on. <> KNUTE PREDICTION: With their injuries and quarterback situation, I just can't see San Diego State being able to score more than 17 points (unless BYU gives up some freebies) as the BYU defense shuts down their running game. BYU's offensive balance keeps SDSU on their heels. BYU rolls 38-20.
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