Harvey Unga is okay after much concern surfaced earlier regarding what turned out to be a hurt pinky. Unga played most of the game last week with the injury and should be fine this week. Where it could hurt him and his production is in his ability to catch the football out of the backfield.
With a healthy Unga, the Cougar ground game has seen very good production. He has shown to be quick, agile and close to the best form he's shown since the 2007 season. Manase Tonga too is coming off his best performance of the season and he is starting to look like he's back into football shape after a long hiatus.
The Aggies have struggled in defending the run so far this season, to put it mildly. They've given up 196 yards per game on the ground so far this season while operating out of their base 4-3 system. Both Texas A&M and Utah put together big gains on the ground, but even Southern Utah managed just over 100 yards on what looks to be a weak Utah State run defense.
Most of Utah State's leading tacklers are its defensive backs, which further attests to their weakness up front where they feature just one starting senior. Their leading tackler up front is their middle linebacker Robby Wagner (6-1, 217 So.).
Cougar fans should be disappointed with anything less than a dominating running performance from Unga and company. The Cougars haven't struggled running the ball so far this season and should romp over the Aggies. Look for the Cougar offensive front to push around the Aggie front seven while gaining more than 200 yards on the ground.
BYU pass offense vs. Utah State
The Cougar passing attack didn't have its best outing last week against Colorado State, but has otherwise been productive so far this season. O'Neill Chambers has begun to emerge as a go-to receiver and should do very well against a weak Aggie secondary. McKay Jacobson has provided a very good deep threat, while Dennis Pitta has been providing a consistent threat in the middle of coverage.
The Cougar passing game may be stunted a bit should Unga not be able to catch passes effectively due to his broken pinky finger, but it shouldn't matter when it's all said and done.
The Aggies have given up 290 yards per game through the air, but have yet to face a truly prolific passing offense. Their secondary does have some good experience, as they'll start two seniors and two juniors, but they haven't done much to slow down passing attacks far less able than BYU's.
The Cougars should be able to do what they want for the most part against the Aggies. If the run game works as expected, look for Robert Anae to use play action effectively to go deep. The Cougar offense should have more opportunities at this than it's had in most games so far this season.
BYU run defense vs. Utah State
The Cougar run defense rebounded nicely after a shockingly weak performance against Florida State the week before. Defending direct running attacks wasn't a problem for the Cougar defense a season ago and shouldn't be so for the rest of this season.
Where the Cougar run defense does struggle is in defending the run on the edges or in tracking down running quarterbacks in the open field. The defense will have its chance to prove better in both areas Friday night, as that's what Utah State does best.
The leading rusher for the Aggies is Robert Turbin (5-10, 212 So.) in regards to yardage, but the runner with the most attempts is their quarterback Diondre Borel (6-0, 187 Jr.). Borel creates all sorts of headaches for most defenses by scrambling out of the pocket or by running on designed keepers up the middle or around the edge.
Turbin has a very impressive average of 8.7 yards per carry coming in, while his backup Michael Smith (5-9, 199 Jr.) has averaged 6.9 yards per carry. The strength of both running backs is around the edges, where their collective explosiveness has accounted for some long gains so far this season.
The matchup is daunting for a Cougar defense whose weaknesses almost directly corresponds with the strengths of the Utah State offense. It's no secret that the Cougars have struggled against running quarterbacks and with containment and pursuit on the edges, so don't be surprised if they try something different in regards to formations when defending the Aggies' attack this time around.
Look for the Aggies to make some good yardage on the ground regardless. One of the big keys for the Cougar defense will be to neutralize the Aggie effectiveness up the middle in an effort to better key on outside threats. This is where Florida State thrived, as the Cougars where unable to key on any specific area while the Seminoles beat them in every aspect of the game.
BYU pass defense vs. Utah State
The Cougars gave up a lot of yards underneath the coverage the past two weeks, as teams have begun to exploit the open flats. Colorado State also picked on diminutive cornerback Brian Logan, who struggled against fade passes while otherwise providing some solid play.
The Aggies have become better through the air lately after struggling against Utah during their first game. They'll use a quick-hitting passing attack from a spread offense much like UNLV did last season, which the Cougars had trouble defending.
Their leading receiver and big playmaker is wideout Stanley Morrison (5-9, 162 So.). The big receiver that they may try to use on Logan is Nnamdi Gwacham (6-3, 211 Sr.). They'll also utilize Turbin in the passing game, as he's caught 10 passes over the first three games of the year.
Look for the Cougars to try and pressure Borel more during the initial stages of the game and look for them to have more success in doing so than they have in each of their past two games. Every player I've talked to this week mentioned getting pressure while maintaining containment as the key to stopping any running quarterback.
Once again, they'll have to show better in defending the quick passes to the flats from a spread formation. Should the Cougars jump out to an early lead, they'll likely choose to play it safe while not letting anything get behind the coverage. Should Utah State be able to keep it close early, then the Cougar pass defense will have to tighten their coverage in the flats to defend short and mid-range routes.
The Cougars could go without punting in this game, as Utah State looks to have little to stop the Cougars defensively. Given the Aggie strengths on offense and how they attack a defense, they should find some success and subsequently keep it closer than most fans would expect.
Final Score: BYU 48 Utah State 28