During their second week off from conference play, Florida State will fly out west over 2,000 miles to play Mountain West Conference power Brigham Young. Last season, the Cougars finished the year off with a record of 10-3 and a spot in both the AP and USA Today top 25 polls.
The Cougars will be led by senior quarterback Max Hall who threw for 35 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards during his junior campaign. Hall will need some players to step up if he wants to duplicate that this season as BYU lost four starters on the offensive line and his top two receivers in Austin Collie and Michael Reed.
One major strength that BYU has is a strong passing game that includes the use of their tight end, which Florida State has had trouble covering in recent years. Last season, Dennis Pitta caught 83 passes for the Cougars for over 1,000 yards. Pitta returns this season and with the loss of Collie and Reed, becomes even more of a threat for the Seminoles.
On the ground, BYU is led by junior running back Harvey Unga. Unga led the Cougars last season in rushing with 1,153 yards and 11 scores. Unga also caught 42 passes out of the backfield for over 300 yards showing he is capable of making plays in more than one way.
For the Tribe to slow down BYU's offense, who averaged just over 34 points per game last season, they will have to get penetration up front early and often. With a new look o-line for BYU, FSU will have to take advantage and get to Hall. Junior defensive end Markus White is primed for a breakout season, and this would be the ideal game for him to break out as a fierce pass rusher.
Defensively, senior linebacker Matt Bauman leads the Cougars as he accounted for 108 tackles last season. In addition to Bauman, the Cougars return seven other starters on defense. However, the Cougars have no proven playmakers in the secondary, and are especially weak at cornerback, which could open the doors for Christian Ponder and Co. to open up the passing game.
What Florida State must do to win:Attack, attack, attack. FSU can not allow Hall time in the pocket to find open receivers because if they do, he will pick the Seminole defense apart forcing the Tribe to keep up on the scoreboard. The same goes for when FSU is on offense. They need to go right at BYU on the ground early with Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones and Tavares Pressley. Once they establish that they will control the ground, the Cougars will for forced to load up the box opening up what should be a very potent passing attack in this game.
NoleDigest way too early prediction:Although BYU won 10 games last year, they failed to show up in their biggest tests of the season losing to TCU 32-7, Utah 24-48 and losing their bowl game to Arizona 21-31. This year's team should be weaker overall and Florida State should be stronger with a much improved offense and great senior leadership on defense from linebacker Dekoda Watson and cornerback Patrick Robinson. This game should be close most of the way but as long as Florida State plays a full 60 minutes, they will come back to Tallahassee with the win.
FSU 31 BYU 21
*FSU 3-0 (1-0 ACC)
Stay tuned to NoleDigest all month as we will continue our "Road to Tampa Bay" series with the next installment looking at the Bulls of USF.
*Based on NoleDigest's way too early predictions.
The Road to Tampa Bay: Game 3 - BYU
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