BYU-MSU GAME PREVIEW

Aaron Sones previews the BYU-MSU game position by position.

BYU (11-0, 7-0 Mountain West Conference) @ MISS STATE (3-7, 2-6)

Television: ESPN2 (Pam Ward, Dean Blevins, Heather Cox)
The Series: State leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: State 44, BYU 28 (9/14/00 in Provo)

Last week's win over Ole Miss was badly needed for this football team. The Dogs now have a little confidence, and they'll need every ounce of it this week. While winning the egg was the equivalent of State's bowl game this season, this match-up with No. 7 BYU provides an opportunity for State to end the season on a high note, and garner a little respect. I'm not so sure that MSU would be up for this one if BYU were, say, 7-4, instead of 11-0. The match-ups indicate this will be a heck of a game, with the Bulldogs trying to control the clock, while BYU plays like its in a hurry to get to the bus. Should be fun.

THE BYU SCHEDULE
8.25 TULANE W 70-35
9.1 NEVADA W 52-7
9.8 @ California W 44-16
9.29 @ UNLV W 35-31
10.5 UTAH STATE W 54-34
10.13 @ New Mexico W 24-20
10.20 AIR FORCE W 63-33
10.27 @ New Mexico St. W 59-21
11.1 COLORADO STATE W 56-34
11.10 @ Wyoming W 41-34
11.17 UTAH W 24-21
12.1 @ Mississippi State 7:00
12.8 @ Hawaii 2:00

THE BYU COACH
Tim Crowton
11-0 at BYU (1st season)
32-13 Overall

THE BYU OFFENSE
Don't be fooled into thinking BYU is a pass-first, run-second type of team. They are actually very balanced. They average 47.5 ppg and 538 ypg. Of those 538 yards, they average 236 on the ground and 302 through the air. Teams that have had success against them (few) did a good job of stuffing the run and making the Cougars somewhat one-dimensional. Out in the MWC, BYU hasn't faced a defense that is a quick and physical as Joe Lee's.

WHO'S HOT: The entire offense. Staley is averaging over eight yards a rush, and 17 points per game. Doman has been hot, and the Cougars are averaging 47.5 points per game.

WHO'S NOT: See above.

A new feature: I will give an advantage to either Mississippi State or the opponent, for every position. I will award either team with the advantage by a certain number of points (like a point-spread), up to 10. For example, if MSU has the advantage by 1 point, it is a slight edge. If it is by 10, it is a commanding edge.

THE BYU OFFENSIVE BACKFIELD
QB 11 BRANDON DOMAN 6-1.195.SR
QB 17 CHARLIE PETERSON 6-1.198.SR
FB 3 NED STEARNS 6-0.215.SR
HB 6 LUKE STALEY 6-1.218.JR

Doman is averaging 266 yards per game through the air. Staley is second in the nation in rushing, with 143.3 yards per contest. Staley is averaging 17 points per game and over eight yards per rush. Expect BYU to try to establish the run. They like to create situations where the defense doesn't know what's coming. Sherrill said they resemble Kentucky's offense, except they like to run, too. Fant has momentum, and Miller/Walker are back to last season's form, but BYU's numbers are incredible.

ADVANTAGE: BYU BY 3

THE BYU RECEIVERS
WR 82 SOREN HALLADAY 6-1.195.SR
WR 80 TOBY CHRISTENSEN 5-11.188.SO
ZR 20 RENO MAHE 5-11.190.JR
ZR 8 MIKE RIGELL 5-8.185.SR
XR 10 ANDREW ORD 6-2.200.JR
XR 26 ROD WILKERSON 6-1.180.FR
TE 89 SPENCER NEAD 6-4.260.JR
TE 86 DOUG JOLLEY 6-4.241.SR

Twenty receivers have caught at least one pass in Crowton's offense this season. Mahe leads the team, with 76.5 yards per game, and leads this group in touchdowns, with five. Jolley, the tight end, is averaging over 15 yards per catch, and about three per game. You can't put up the numbers BYU has without good receivers. State's group is improving, but hasn't come close to what BYU's have done.

ADVANTAGE: BYU BY 5

THE BYU OFFENSIVE LINE
RT 65 BEN ARCHIBALD 6-4.303.JR
RG 69 AARON MCCUBBINS 6-3.295.SR
C 68 JASON SCUKANEC 6-2.285.SR
LG 54 TEAG WHITING 6-3.298.SR
LT 79 DUSTIN RYKERT 6-7.301.JR

The line averages nearly 300 pounds per man, and all of them are back from last year. All but Whiting received All-MWC honors last year. They've allowed just 12 sacks. State's line is starting to get healthier.

ADVANTAGE: BYU BY 1

THE BYU DEFENSE
BYU gives up an average of 425 yards per game, compared to 356 for State. They give up 216 yards on the ground and 209 in the air. They don't blitz a lot, it's a basic defense that tries to fill holes and prevent big plays. I think State can move the ball on this unit and run clock, which should be the game plan.

WHO'S HOT: Linebacker Justin Ena leads the team in tackles, with 93. Defensive end Bryan Denney has recorded an amazing 19 tackles for a loss.

WHO'S NOT: No one applies.

THE BYU DEFENSIVE LINE

LE 93 BRETT KEISEL 6-5.269.SR
LT 94 JEFF COWART 6-4.259.JR
RT 95 IFO PILI 6-3.315.SO
RE 92 RYAN DENNEY 6-7.275.SR

BYU is much beefier at this position than Ole Miss was, averaging nearly 280 pounds per man. This group has produced 23 sacks, but has shown a tendency to let teams run over them. Denney is a special player.

ADVANTAGE: STATE BY 2

THE BYU LINEBACKERS

SLB 47 PAUL WALKENHORST 6-5.255.SO
MLB 55 JUSTIN ENA 6-3.261.SR
WLB 21 ISAAC KELLEY 6-4.240.SR

These three are all in the top-four on the squad in tackles, with Ena leading the way. They are very quick for their size. They like to fill the gaps on rushing plays. I think State can take advantage of match-up situations here in the passing game.

ADVANTAGE: STATE BY 1

THE BYU SECONDARY

LC 4 JERNARO GILFORD 6-1.180.SO
SS 19 DUSTIN STALEY 5-11.178.SR
FS 7 LEVI MADARIETA 6-2.210.SO
Very young group here, but they have been productive at times. They've given up a lot of yards, but only 13 of their opponent's 23 touchdowns have come through the air. State's unit handled Manning last week, and enter the game brimming with confidence.

ADVANTAGE: STATE BY 1

THE BYU SPECIAL TEAMS

P 29 AARON EDMONDS 5-11.192.SR
PK 38 MATT PAYNE 6-4.247.FR

Payne is 9-of-14 in field goal attempts, with a 50-yarder being his longest. Edmonds is averaging over 41 yards per kick, and likes to direction his kicks so the returner can't return the kicks. The kick and punt return units are adequate. BYU gets the nod because of State's lack of consistency in the field goal department. It will take touchdowns, not field goals, to win Saturday.

ADVANTAGE: BYU BY 2

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

  • State will try to do many of the same things that they did last week. Run the ball, mix in some pass plays, and control the clock.
  • BYU will try to let Staley establish himself before airing it out.
  • The Cougars will go for it often on fourth down. They are 13-of-18 on fourth downs this season.
  • State must take advantage of any mistakes and turnovers and produce points. And the Bulldogs can't afford silly penalties or turnovers deep in their own territory this week.

    OUTLOOK

    Both teams have momentum. BYU has more to play for. State is at home, which will probably be the toughest environment the Cougars have faced all year. I expect Fant to have another well-played game, but think Dicenzo Miller and Dontae Walker will be the key. Grind up the yardage, control the clock, and keep BYU off the field. If MSU does that, they'll win. Whatever the outcome, expect a thoroughly entertaining game.

    STATE 38
    BYU 31


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