BYU is looking to secure a postseason home, and with three games remaining, they must win two to do so. One would assume that this game against Colorado State would be a must win, but even though one of those three remaining games is against the powerful (though wounded) Utah, head coach Bronco Mendenhall declared this week that he expects BYU to win each of its three final games. Be that coach-speak or not, most people will agree that this game at least, is a game that BYU should win.
CSU is (3-7) on the year, with two of those wins coming against the dregs of the the Mountain West conference, UNLV and New Mexico. The other win was by two points over Idaho. Probably their best performance in a loss came last week, when they fell 24-19 against San Diego State. The Rams kept on fighting until the end, and kept it close, something they hadn’t done in a loss all season. Coming into the game, CSU is averaging only 350 yards of total offense per game, along with 19 points for and 32 against. All of their wins came at home this season, with their only home losses coming against Colorado and TCU.
After dropping four games straight, culminating with the disappointment in Logan and the subsequent firing of Jaime Hill, the Cougars have now won three of their last four games, with that loss coming at TCU. The Cougars are poised to win their third consecutive game, and thus bring their record to .500. The “Hill” defense had given up 28.8 points per game, and the Bronco D is averaging only 19.75 per game. The Cougars’ best offensive and defensive efforts both came last week against UNLV, when they beat the Rebels 55-7.
Keys to the game
Jake Heaps and the Receivers. Heaps had his best game of the season last week, throwing for two touchdowns and 294 yards. He should have another good game this week against the Rams’ weak passing defense. Expect two more passing touchdowns from the freshman quarterback this week, and possibly, the first 300 yard game of his collegiate career.
Special Teams. Cody Hoffman and JD Falslev have been breaking out, especially in the last two weeks since the former returner was suspended from the team. Kick returns have been exciting to watch, and that is a great, albeit unfamiliar feeling. Their success here will lead to good field position and quick offensive turnarounds for scores.
The Rush Attack. Teams that know how to run the ball have had good success against the Rams this season. JJ DiLuigi, Bryan Kariya, and Josh Quezada have been a great trio of running backs this season, and they should be able to hang a couple hundred yards on the Rams’ defense.
Bronco D. The defense has put up some remarkable stats in the last few weeks, holding teams to negative rushing yards in the first half of games, and keeping offenses to fewer than 100 total yards until the second team D comes in. While the offense has to score enough points to win, the defense has been able to demoralize MWC opponents of late, and even if the dominance doesn’t last the whole game, it is enough to take BYU’s opponents out of the game until it’s too late. The defense Bronco puts on the field is far superior to the one from the beginning of the season. The stats are better, but they also play with confidence, and execute at a very high level. It has been an impressive transformation that Bronco has been able to make with this team mid-season.
Colorado State and BYU have a lot in common, statistically. If you removed the names and compared stats, this game might be a toss-up. But Bronco’s BYU has never lost to the Rams, and these Cougars are a different team than the ones that lost to Utah State. In my season preview, I chose BYU over CSU 45-10, and I am sticking with that call.