The good news for the BYU run game is that Harvey Unga will enter tomorrow's matchup as healthy and as fully rested as he's been all season. A healthy and rested Unga will obviously provide a huge boost to a Cougar ground game which has been efficient throughout the season.
Unga may be playing his last game in Cougar blue as he mulls a decision to leave early for the NFL draft while fullback Manase Tonga will definitely be playing in his last game. Considering that fact fans can look for this dynamic duo to be raring to go in putting forth their collective best effort against the Beavers.
"We definitely want to show well in this game", said Manase Tonga. "It's my last game, obviously, so it's important for me and for all the seniors to give our best effort which I think we will."
Oregon State presents a tough challenge in ranking 25th nationally in overall rushing defense. The Beavers operate out of a 4-3 base defensive formation that features a defensive line that utilizes a very consistent rotation that will have eight players rotating frequently throughout the game.
"They're very physical upfront", noted center RJ Willing. "On film they look about as physical as TCU with how they play. They'll be a challenge for us to be sure, but I think we're up to it."
Right Tackle Stephen Paea (6-1, 285 JR) is the Beaver's most formidable and experienced down lineman.
"He's as good as any defensive tackle I've faced all year", noted Willing about Paea.
At linebacker they'll be led by strong side outside linebacker Keaton Kristick (6-3, 230 SR.) Kristick is very quick to the ball and can cover a lot of space.
"They're very strong at linebacker from what we've seen on film", noted Tonga. "They can cover a lot of space and they make their tackles. They're an impressive defense."
A healthier-than-ever Harvey Unga should equal good returns on the ground for BYU despite Oregon State's productive run defense. Look for Unga to surpass 100 yards rushing and for the Cougars to be as successful on the ground as they've been all season.
BYU passing offense vs. Oregon State
The Cougar passing attack did not fair well against Utah despite the final touchdown pass from Max Hall to Andrew George that soon won't be forgotten by Cougar fans. Utah presented a very tough system that BYU struggled with. Against Oregon State they'll look to bounce back.
"Our timing was off and a lot of that was my fault", admitted quarterback Max Hall. "So we obviously want to rebound well against Oregon State and finish off with a productive game. That's what you want as a senior."
The Beavers can be had through the air as they're the 85th-ranked passing defense in the country. They present four first-year starters in the secondary who have struggled in defending the pass throughout the 2009 season.
"They're good and they'll be a challenge", said Hall about Oregon State's pass defense. "They like to mix it up and although they've struggled against some teams, they're going to bring their best game against us and we'll have to be ready for it."
Their pass rush hasn't been all that effective either as they've only accounted for 15 sacks on the year.
"They play a lot of coverage, but they will blitz on occasion", noted Hall.
BYU's passing offense should be back to form against Oregon State. Defenses have limited BYU's production through the air by forcing the Cougar wideouts to make plays on single coverage while doubling Dennis Pitta. It's questionable if Oregon State has the level of cornerbacks capable of executing such a defensive gameplan.
Aiding the Cougar receiving corps will be a healthy McKay Jacobson. Jacobson hasn't had the burst he had entering the season due to a nagging hamstring injury. As Unga looks to be at his most healthy the same looks to be the same with Jacobson as he'll look to stretch the Beaver defense.
BYU rushing defense vs. Oregon State
Save for a couple of hiccups the Cougar rush defense has been quietly efficient this season. Teams have had a very tough time finding success on the ground and particularly during the second half of the season as outside linebacker Jordan Pendleton has really come on strong.
"I'm just more confident and quick with my reads now", said Jordan Pendleton. "You have to see things fast playing outside linebacker and you can't get out of position or hesitate. If you do you're beat and as I've become more and more confident with my reads and where to go I've been able to be more productive."
The Beavers will present one of the more dynamic running backs in the country in Jacquizz Rodgers (5-7, 191 SO.) Rodgers is very strong for his size and can beat a defense pounding the ball up the middle or by taking it to the outside.
"He's tough to see since he's so short which makes it even more difficult to defend him", noted outside linebacker Coleby Clawson. "He does everything well and he's definitely one of the best if not the best running back that we've faced all year."
"Everything we do and all our assignments become just that much more important when you face a guy like Rodgers", added Pendleton. "We have to be assignment sound and we can't let him get outside of the containment because that's where he can kill you."
The Beavers operate out of a single-back set on most occasions and like to spread a defense out. There is not much question that they present the toughest challenge on the ground that BYU has faced since playing TCU.
Rodgers is a beast that presents some unique challenges with his speed and strength combo. He's a type of back BYU has rarely faced this season and his strengths correspond well with BYU's weaknesses on defense. Look for Rodgers to be as productive as any running back BYU has faced all season.
BYU passing defense vs. Oregon State
As good as Oregon State is on the ground, they're better through the air where they're led by senior quarterback Sean Canfield (6-4, 214.) Canfield has put together a very good season completing 70% of his passes for an average of 258.9 yards per game for an efficiency rating of 148.26.
"He's very good" noted defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen. "He's probably the best pure-pocket passer that we've faced so far this year. He doesn't run it like Dalton and some others do, but he's as good if not better in the pocket than anyone we've faced. He's very good."
The focus of the passing game will again be Jacquizz Rodges along with his brother James Rodgers (5-7, 185 JR) who plays the flanker position for the Beavers. James Rodgers has been the leading receiver for Oregon State catching 87 passes for 1009 yards and 9 touchdowns on the year. Jacquizz Rodgers, meanwhile has hauled in 74 passes for 509 yards and a touchdown.
"Those guys basically do everything for them", noted safety Scott Johnson about the Rodgers brothers. "They're both very fast and shifty and can cause a bunch of problems for us. They like to use both guys in space and isolate them where they're hard to single-tackle in the open field."
The Cougar pass defense has improved in large part in going more cover 2 than the normal cover 3 and with it they've faired much better in defending the flats and underneath while maybe exposing more chances down-the-field. Oregon State loves to attack the flats, but they can beat a defense deep with the very accurate Canfield. BYU will have its hands full as the Beavers present the best passing attack they've faced all season.
All signs point a shootout in this one where BYU looks to have enough on offense to cause all sorts of problems for the Beaver defense and vice versa. The Beavers are definitely the best opponent BYU will have faced in the Las Vegas Bowl, but a more focused and senior-laden BYU team should prove victorious in a hard-fought battle.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 34 Oregon State 31