BYU running game vs. Utah State
The Aggies are a bit light up front and at linebacker. Through four games they've allowed 218 yard rushing per game, and only Idaho has rushed for less than 100 yards against the Aggies.
The Aggies have some good experience up front, as they are starting a senior and two junior defensive linemen along with two senior linebackers. Senior middle linebacker Jake Hutton is the team's leading tackler through the first four games of the season.
The Cougars meanwhile have hit their stride in running the football. The interior offensive line unit has done well at pushing around its opponents so far this year, and you can certainly look for much of the same against Utah State. A week off should help Harvey Unga more than anyone on the Cougar roster, and he'll be looking to pound it away against the Aggie defensive front.
Prognosis: BYU should do what it wants when running the football. This is an area where Utah State looks completely overmatched on paper. Should offensive coordinator Robert Anae be committed to the run, Unga should approach and even break 100 yards rushing by halftime.
What I'll be Watching: Much like I've been watching for during most games this year, I'll be watching for how much running backs J.J. DiLuigi and Wayne Latu are used and how effective they prove to be. Utah State should provide an opportunity for both of Unga's backups to shine, and I'll be watching for it come Friday night.
BYU passing game vs. Utah State
Utah State has proven to be better at defending against the pass than the run so far this season. Teams have had some good success throwing against the Aggies, however, but due to how effectively those teams have been running the football, it may have taken away from what chances they'd take at putting the ball in the air and truly testing the Aggie secondary.
The Aggies start two seniors in their secondary, with their two starting cornerbacks standing in at 5 feet 9 inches and 5 feet 8 inches, respectively. They play a zone-heavy system, but can go man if they choose to.
What can you say about the BYU passing attack? The Cougars have done basically what they want to in regards to throwing the football so far this season. Wyoming proved to be better at defending the pass than most teams, and Max Hall and company should be looking to rebound from their relatively mediocre outing against the Cowboys.
Prognosis: It's difficult to imagine Utah State holding BYU's passing game in check, much like it is with BYU's running game. Utah State has struggled in getting pressure on the quarterback, and Max Hall should have plenty of opportunity to find his open receivers.
What I'll be Watching: Much like last game, I'll be watching the three receivers who will be working to substitute for the injured Michael Reed. Last game Luke Ashworth, O'Neill Chambers and Bryce Mahuika weren't targeted much, and we'll see if that changes this week.
BYU run defense vs. Utah State
Utah State's offense has built some good momentum now that Diondre Borel has begun to emerge as the starting quarterback. Borel is a real threat to run the ball and will be the single offensive player that will give the Cougars their most trouble come Friday night. Borel is Utah State's leading rusher.
At running back the Aggies rotate sophomore Curtis Marsh with freshman Robert Turbin. Turbin averages more than four yards a carry, while Marsh looks to be Utah State's big-play back, as he's averaging more than seven yards per run this year.
Against Wyoming BYU did very well at defending the run, just as they have done all year long. BYU did struggle defending against Jake Locker in the Washington game, and Borel presents a lot of the same challenges that Locker did for the defense.
Prognosis: This is the area where Utah State will be trying to make its mark. Borel has shown to be very dangerous when running the ball out of the pocket and when running the option. The Cougars will have their hands full, and while they should do well, look for Borel to get his share of yardage on the ground.
What I'll be Watching: The play of the outside linebackers is key in this game, as they will look to contain Borel. It's also key for the inside linebackers to be able to make plays and jump plays in the backfield.
I'll be watching first how effective Coleby Clawson, David Nixon and Daniel Sorensen prove to be in containing Borel, and I'll also be looking for how effective inside linebackers Matt Bauman, Matt Ah You and Shawn Doman prove to be in making plays and stuffing the run.
BYU pass defense vs. Utah State
The Aggies have struggled at throwing the football so far this year. While Borel creates all sorts of problems when running the football, he's been less effective at throwing it.
Nevertheless, Utah State does have some guys at wideout that can beat a defense. Otis Nelson in particular creates some matchup problems because he's a big, tall receiver with some good speed down the field.
BYU's pass defense has been rejuvenated with the installment of the new nickel package. The Cougars have been effective against the pass this year, and while they've yet to be truly tested, that test won't likely come from Utah State this week.
Prognosis: Look for Utah State to try and beat BYU deep while presenting mostly a dink-and-dunk sort of passing attack. Borel is not a pocket passer, and most of his looks in the passing game will likely come on play-action and while out of the pocket.
What I'll be watching: I'll be watching the pass rush. Against Wyoming Coach Hill called very few blitzes, and that may be the case again against Utah State, as the Cougars will be looking primarily to contain Borel on most passing plays. Regardless, it will be interesting to see if the Cougars can consistently get to the quarterback while rushing three or four guys.
Conclusion: Utah State will be up for this game, while BYU may prove to be a bit rusty after a bye week. Utah State has very adequate skill-position players on offense, but struggles at creating opportunities for those skill players due to a weak offensive line. Look for this game to be a bit closer than most people think going in, although BYU should be able to win comfortably.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 45, Utah State 20