Utah Quarterback and Wide Receivers vs BYU Secondary
Travis Wilson did in 2015 what Travis did has done all of his career; tease us with big potential, only to come back to earth with inconsistent results. He may not have much help in the receiving corps on Saturday as both Kenneth Scott and Britain Covey, Utah's top two receivers, remain questionable. If they can't go, the passing game is going to suffer with the likes of Tyron Smith and Raelon Singleton likely the top targets. Wilson is going to have to do some damage on the ground on Saturday, and I can see him pushing for 100+ against a BYU run D that isn't very good.
BYU does a pretty good job in slowing the passing game, giving up only 212 yards per game. Safety Kai Nacua led the team with 6 interceptions and threw in 58 tackles. Michael Wadsworth leads the team with 79 tackles. This is a very good safety duo. Corner Michael Davis has 10 pass breakups this season while Micah Hannemann has 7 of his own to go along with 2 interceptions.
Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends vs BYU Linebackers
Well, now we know thatr Joe Williams can actually play. With two full games under his belt, he looks like a legitimate running back and someone that can easily put up 100 yards against BYU. This will be the slowest defense he's faced so far, so the JC transfer's speed could initiate a carry where he breaks a long one. Williams has been really good between the tackles in his time as a starter, and that's very encouraging. Harrison Handley has taken advantage of injuries to other tight ends and really made a new for himself the last couple of weeks, finishing the season with 19 catches and 4 touchdowns.
BYU struggled early in the season in slowing the run, but things have improved as the season went along. They've got some good athletes led by middle linebacker and former Ute Harvey Langi who is third on the team with 64 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, and 2 interceptions. Langi is very rangy and can cover a lot of ground. Fred Warner is a playmaker. 4 fumbles recovered, 2 interceptions, 4.5 sacks, and 10.5 tackles for loss back that up for the sophomore linebacker. Manoa Pikula and Sae Tatau round out the group that gives up 145 yards per game.
Utah Offensive Line vs BYU Defensive Line
Somehow, Utah's offense line made it through the season with close to zero injuries. That's astounding. It should benefit a group that despite being up and down for much of the season, should be gelled and ready to open up some holes for Williams and Wilson in the run game. JJ Dielman and Siaosi Aiono had great seasons while Sam Tevi finished the year well. These guys can take over a game if they want to.
BYU's defense is led by end Bronson Kaufusi who finished the year with 55 tackles, 11 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles. Those are all american type numbers for the 6-8, 280 pounder. Big ol' Travis Tuiloma is the guy inside eating up blockers, but still registering 2.5 sacks. Logan Taele is on the other end and comes in qwith 6.5 tackles for loss.
BYU QB and Wide Receivers vs Utah Secondary
The Cougars have one of the top freshman signal callers in the country in Tanner Mangum who threw for 255 yards per game with 21 touchdowns and 7 interceptions on the year. He's an accurate passer with a lot of poise, but tends to throw a lot of jump balls when pressured. That works for him though with the size of his receivers. Nick Kurtz goes 6-5 205 and had 35 grabs on the year. Mitch Matthews is 6-6, 215 and came down with 52 catches and 11 touchdowns. Terren Houk is 6-6, 225 with 31 catches while Devon Blackmon is the 'little' guy of the group at 6-0, 187. He had 43 catches in 2015. BYU will be without 3rd leading receiver Mitchell Jurgens. Either way, these guys are big. Very big, but don't have a ton of speed. The Safeties will need to come over and help out on the jump balls throughout the day.
With Utah's secondary getting healthy due to the break, they should be more than ready to matchup with the big bodied receivers of BYU. Marcus Williams led the confernce in interceptions at the safety spot and Tevin Carter is coming off of his best game as a Ute against Colorado. Hatfield didn't have the second half of the season that most anticipated, but was still solid. Reggie Porter was his solid self, and Justin Thomas had one of the most underrated season you'll ever see out of a corner/nickelback. The guy was tremendous and consistent all year.
BYU Running Backs and Tight Ends vs Utah Linebackers
BYU's running game is a bit of a mixed bag. Algernon Brown gets the star and averags 69 yards per game with 11 touchdowns and 5.7 yards per carry. Outside of him though, the Cougs do struggle. Adam Hine goes for 40.8 yards on 5.1 yards per carry with Francis Bernard averaging 30.7 yards with 6.1 yards per touch. The average carries are good, but they just don't run it a ton. BYU tight end Remington Peck has only 6 catches.
The Utah linebackers have to be excited at what they'll see in front of them on Saturday. They're healthy, rested, and ready to tee off on a BYU running game that has been subpar. Gionni Paul is ready to put on a show for NFL scouts and Jared Norris would love nothing more than to get another win over the rival. They've been slowing rushing attacks all season. No reason to think that won't continue.
BYU Offensive Line vs Utah Defensive Line
The Cougars trot out a big, physical offensive line. Brad Wilcox looks like he'll get the nod at left tackle with Ryker Matthews right now to him. They're 6-7 and 6-6 repsectively, and both over 320 pounds. Center Tejan Koromo is a bit undersized, but is a physical, nasty player. Tuni Kanuchi lines up at right guard and goes 330, while Ului Lapuahu is arguably their top offensive lineman at left tackle. He's a load at 6-7, 330. This unit has had some issues with pss blocking, giving up 29 sacks on the year, and haven't exactly opened up a ton of holes with BYU rushing for only 133 yards per game. They have the potential to be good, but can struggle with athletic defense.
Utah's defensive line looks to be as healthy as they've been in months, and will give BYU a handful of problems. With guys like Seni Fauonuku and Jason Fanaika playing in their final games, and it being against BYU, they'll be as fired up as ever. Hunter Dimick looks like he may play, but if not Kylie Fitts has been tremendous when on the field. The interior of the the line is as stout as they come with Lowell, Filipo, and Stevie T. BYU will have trouble slowing them down.
Tom Hackett won the Ray Guy Award, again. Andy Phillips landed on all conference and all american teams, again. Britain Covey, if he can play, provides one of the more dynamic return men in the country. If Utah can cover kicks, they'll be just fine.
Kick returner Riley Burt is averaging 25.9 yards per kickoff return with Micah Hannemann is avergaing 3.5 yards per punt return. Trevor Sampson has hit on 14 of 16 field goals with a long of 45 and punter Jonny Linehan averags 43 yards per punt.