Colorado State: The Rams will have junior Caleb Hanie calling the plays from under center. Hanie comes in with a pass efficiency rating of 137.6 having passed for 1816 yards on the year with 9 touchdown passes and 8 interceptions. Hanie is a pocket-passer who has exactly zero yards rushing having gained 196 yards on the ground while losing the exact same amounts on sacks. Hanie has shown the ability to beat a defense deep.
BYU: John Beck is coming off another impressive performance. Against Air Force, the Jonn Unitas Award finalist went almost exclusively against eight men stacked in three and four deep zones. Beck is still playing as well as any quarterback in the nation at this late point of the season.
Conclusion: Beck's numbers are significantly better across the board. His passer rating is 35 points better than Hanie's. Beck has thrown for 20 touchdowns this season with a mere three interceptions. Few, if any, quarterbacks in the country have the edge over Beck right now.
Colorado State: Losing Kyle Bell before the season dampened the CSU ground game considerably. Replacing Bell as the Ram's primary ball-carrier is Gartrell Johnson, who is averaging 2.8 yards per carry with 5 touchdowns. He will share reps primarily with Nnamdi Ohaeri, who has not fared much better with a 3.6 yards per carry average and no touchdowns. Michael Myers will also see some reps running the football.
BYU: Curtis Brown and Fui Vakapuna should both be more healthy this week. The Cougar duo has proved very efficient so far this year although they're still awaiting the break-through game that many fans have anticipated.
Conclusion: Colorado State comes in averaging 2.3 yards per carry and just shy of 75 yards per game on the ground. BYU averages almost double that at 4.4 yards per carry and 147 yards per game respectively.
Colorado State: Colorado State's two primary receivers on the outside are Johnny Walker and Damon Morton. While Walker has more catches, Morton has more yards and is CSU's big-play guy. Both are very capable receivers who can beat a defense downfield.
BYU: The Cougars have four play-makers on the outside who will rotate throughout the game in McKay Jacobson, Michael Reed, Zac Collie and Matt Allen. Every game seems to feature one or two of the four more than the others.
Conclusion: Walker and Morton both have significantly more catches than any of the Cougar wideouts. They both grab around five balls per gameand are the primary options in Colorado State's struggling offense.
Edge: Colorado State
Colorado State: Unlike most of the opponents BYU has faced this year, Colorado State features a tight end as a primary option on offense. Kory Sperry will start at tight end for the Rams. He has 28 catches and three touchdowns on the season.
BYU: Jonny Harline is coming off what was arguably his best game of the season a week ago. Teams have doubled Harline throughout the year and he has disappeared at times in the Cougar offense due to that increased defensive attention. Harline has equaled Sperry's catch total while doubling him in touchdowns with six.
Conclusion: Harline gets the edge over Sperry. Throw in Daniel Coats and his and his 11 catches and BYU comes out firmly on top.
Colorado State: The Rams offensive line is considered to be one of the weakest in the Mountain West conference starting three freshmen. They obviously have not been able to mount much of a running attack while giving up 29 sacks through 8 games this season.
BYU: The Cougar offensive line is not giving up sacks and has been productive creating lanes for Brown and Vakapuna to run through all season long.
Conclusion: It is the tale of two offensive lines here. The Cougars are more experienced and have provided solid play while CSU features a struggling offensive line that is learning on the fly.
Colorado State: The Rams have some experience on their defensive line including two regulars with fifty career starts between them. They operate out of a four-man front. It is a unit that can hold a run game in check, giving up only 117 yards on the ground per game while tallying 21 sacks through 8 games this year.
BYU: The Cougars are coming off of a very impressive performance against Air Forc,e in which the defensive line led the attack. The Cougars give up a similar amount of yards as the Rams on the ground on average while their sack total is down from where the Rams are.
Conclusion: The play has been remarkably similar between the two defensive line units. While the Rams have struggled on offense, they have put together a decent defense with some good experience.
Edge: Colorado State
Colorado State: CSU will play a lot of nickel packages employing only two linebackers. The Ram's base defense is a 4-3. Unlike most teams, CSU will go with just two linebackers in what are not obvious passing downs.
The unit will be led by sophomore Jeff Horinek who started as a freshman a season ago. All three Ram linebackers started in games last season.
BYU: The Cougars have the best set of linebackers in the conference
Conclusion: Both teams have capable units, although the Cougar linebackers have made more plays and, as mentioned, are the best LB unit in the conference by a long stretch.
Colorado State: The Ram pass defense has only allowed 157.1 yards per game and 8 touchdowns through the air in its eight games. They will be led by cornerback Darryl Williams and free safety Klint Kubiak. As mentioned, the Rams will not hesitate to use a nickel formation often.
BYU: The Cougar secondary continues to make strides. They have given up more yards through the air than the Rams on average at 208 yards per game, albeit against tougher competition.
Conclusion: Both squads have solid pass coverage, although the Cougar secondary has not really been tested since the game against Boston College. The Ram secondary has not been tested by a prolific passing offense all season.
1. The game will be low-scoring
Both defensive units are solid on paper coming in. While the Ram offense has been next to punchless with the weakest running attack in the conference, BYU's offense has been humming along at an impressive rate. Conservative play-calling from BYU coupled with CSU's anemic offense will lead to a relatively low-scoring Mountain West conference game.
2. Colorado State will make at least one big play for a touchdown
The Rams feature the two best receivers BYU has faced since Boston College and maybe all year. Walker and Morton are real play-makers who have proven able to beat defenses over-the-top of coverage. They will have plenty of opportunities to make plays deep because the run game will not be there for CSU.
3. Special teams will play a bigger factor than usual
With more defensive stops anticipated than prior games, special teams will play a much bigger role in the outcome of this game. Sonny Lubick teams always feature solid special teams play while BYU's return and coverage units have impressed all season long. It should be a very good battle in which the Cougars hard work in practice should finally pay noticeable dividends.
The top three Cougar performers on offense besides Beck will be Jacobson, Brown ,and Harline.
Final Score: BYU 27 Colorado State 17
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