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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Podcast, 9-30-2012 - Qb Controversy and Tough Games Ahead

This is our first ever podcast, so please let us know how to improve. Also, give us your thoughts on the topics discussed!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Qb Controversy, Dominant Defense, Hoffman, and PATs

It's hard to really learn a whole lot from a game against a team as bad as Hawaii, but there are a few things that stand out as take-aways from BYU's romping of the Rainbow Warriors last night.

1. We have a quarterback controversy

Well, it's not really a Qb controversy because Bronco has definitively said that Riley Nelson is the starter if he is healthy. But that decision will come under heavy scrutiny after Taysom Hill's performance. While his passing stats were lack-luster (12/21, 112 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT), his legs lit up the atrocious Hawaii defense as he rushed for 143 yards on 15 carries. At times he was probably a bit too run-happy, and I would have liked to see him settle in the pocket a little bit more. But the newly renovated offensive line had trouble keeping the pocket in tact for long, so much of the time Hill had no choice but to tuck it. Aside from some accuracy issues which led directly to his one interception  Hill looked more than competent, and, in my opinion, a much better option than Riley Nelson.

2. BYU has a good defense

I will devote no more than three sentences to this section. BYU held Hawaii to 149 total yards and forced three turnovers. In three out of the five games BYU has played, the defense has given up exactly zero touchdowns and is only giving up 6.4 points per game (when the defensive TDs given up to Utah and Boise State are considered).

3. Hoffman is a Riley man

Last year when Nelson came in at the end of the Utah State game, Cody Hoffman came alive. He started jumping and diving to catch throws that he would have missed if thrown by Heaps. He had a spring in his step for the rest of the season as he became Nelson's favorite (if not only) target. Last night, Hoffman looked uninspired, uninterested. Even as Hill threw to him in the end zone twice in a row (one ending in an offensive PI call and the other incomplete), Hoffman slowly jogged back to the huddle as if obligated to be out there. I hope I am wrong, but I can't help but conclude that Hoffman has some kind of special kinship with Nelson that makes him really want to play with him. Hill did a great job of spreading the throws around and getting Ross Apo involved, and I wonder whether Hoffman doesn't like that. I don't want this to be true, and I admit that it is pure speculation, but I'm calling it how I see it.

4. Our place-kicking game is bad

As I tweeted during the game, Bronco is looking more and more smart for going for two against Boise State last week. Against Hawaii, Riley Stephenson had one extra point blocked and missed another by his own doing. He has also missed field goals from as short as 13 yards. This puts extra pressure on the already anemic offense to get into the end zone because they know they cannot rely on three points once we enter the red zone.

This is an unfortunate time to still be struggling with issues like place kicking, offensive line communication, and quarterback controversies. BYU has tough games coming up against Utah State, Oregon State, Notre Dame, and Georgia Tech, all of which could get ugly if these issues aren't ironed out quickly.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Hawaii predictions

Little Bro says:

This game was a lot easier to predict before the season started. BYU was supposed to have this dominant defense with a good offense that would put up points and get wins. Now, a third of the way through the season only half of that has held true. The cougars have a defense that is one of the tops in the nation in nearly every category statistically. The offense... well that's another story. They have struggled to find their identity, and their strengths. The offensive line has yet to show up, and their pass game can't seem to find their NFL caliber player in Ross Apo. However, tomorrow against Hawaii could be the remedy for this ailing squad.

Hawaii comes in after getting obliterated by Nevada, in Hawaii, last week 69-24. The Hawaii defense gave up over 350 yards on the ground and 7 touchdowns to ONE player, Nevada running back Stefphon Johnson. The defense plays mainly man to man, and obviously isnt their strength. I look for BYU to exploit the weakness of the Warriors defense and have a big game, regardless of who plays quarterback. This team just isn't a great team, and historically doesn't win in Provo.

I see Taysom Hill getting the start, and having a few cobwebs to start off. However, after a quarter of jitters he cools down and has a respectable game 18-32 with 217 yards passing. Throw in the jitters and he throws his first career interception, but also throws for 2 TD's and runs for another.

The one thing that can be pointed out about BYU's defense is their lack of taking the ball away. I foresee BYU getting 2 takeaways tomorrow, if not more via interception and a fumble.

BYU takes care of business and walks away with another comfortable home win, and gets their confidence going going into some good games with Oregon State and Utah State coming up.

BYU 31 - Hawaii 10

Big Bro says:

31 points just sound unbelievable to me right now with this stagnant offense, but Little Bro has a point that perhaps the only thing more pathetic than BYU's offense is Hawaii's defense. It will be a race to the bottom between the Hawaii D and BYU O to see who will be worse. Thankfully, I think the Cougars can come out on top and pull off the win.

I anticipate the defense dominating (and the sun coming up in the morning). I also anticipate Taysom Hill to either start or get most of the snaps. I agree with Little Bro that this offense will, as usual, come out of the gates slow and probably not score more than a field goal in the first quarter. But by the end of the game the Cougars will have a handful of touchdowns and a comfortable lead. I predict the defense will pitch another TD shutout and only give up one field goal.

BYU 30 - Hawaii 3

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Riley's New Role

We all saw the Boise State game. We all wish we hadn't. The game was poorly played by both sides, and even more poorly coached by both sides. He Bronco (Mendenhall and Boise State) made crucial errors in play calling and decisions, that eventually led to a BYU loss 7-6 in Boise.

The most critical mistake however, came at the hands of the visiting Bronco Mendenhall. He should have pulled Riley Nelson before he had. In retrospect, that could have lost the game. If Riley Nelson comes out 1 possession earlier, he doesn't throw the pick-six that leads to BYU's demise against the home Bronco's.

I, for one, had previously jumped on the Riley Nelson bandwagon, as he has showed amazing leadership. However, after the last two weeks and seeing his body language, I am retracting that support. If Riley was truly a leader and team player, he would have sat himself in the last two games, and allowed for a healthy quarterback to lead the team. However, he was selfish and played through the pain, and caused more bad than good.

I still think Riley can be a good leader. However, his job at least for this week against Hawaii is to support Taysom Hill in the starting role. Being a cheerleader on the sidelines will be just as important as throwing the passes. Only Hill in this case, is more suited to make those throws than Riley Nelson.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Game Threes Not Kind to BYU

On this Holy War Eve, I find myself browsing through the BYU stats, trying to figure out the Cougars' chances at beating the Utes this year.

Florida State spoiled BYU's 2009 and 2010 campaigns
 on game three of BYU's schedule.
Unfortunately, I uncovered something that does not bode well for the Cougs. Since taking over, Bronco Mendenhall's teams have only won one (1) game three. That win came in 2008, a 59-0 shalacking of UCLA in Provo.

Game three has been a tough slot in the Cougars' schedule for some reason. In 2005, TCU snuck into the BYU schedule early to accommodate BYU's late-season trip to South Bend, beating BYU by 1 in overtime. In 2006, Boston College stole a win in another overtime game. In 2007, Tulsa beat the Cougars in a track meet, 55-47. After beating Oklahoma and Tulane to start the season, in 2009 BYU was the trendy pick to bust the BCS and possibly be the first non-BCS team to break into the national championship game before Florida State humbled the Cougars at home, 54-28. The next year the Seminole proved it wasn't a fluke and sent BYU home from Tallahassee with a 34-10 loss. And, of course, last year was the day that will live in infamy among the Cougar faithful as Utah was not a polite guest in Provo, handing BYU a 54-10 loss, causing 7 turnovers.

It is notable that all of these losses came to reputable teams. It's not as though there is some strange curse on weak three such that BYU is losing to UNLV or New mexico State. But nonetheless, week three seems to be BYU's humbler every year.

Is this the year BYU shakes the trend and pulls out a win in Salt Lake?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

BYU Will Be Fine, Notre Dame or Not

Could ND's move to the ACC tackle the Cougar's independence plans?
Recent announcements by Notre Dame that the Irish will be taking its non-football sports to the ACC have BYU fans up in arms. Because ND also agreed to play 5 football games every year against the ACC, Cougar fans are seeing the supposed writing on the wall that ND will attempt to cut some games against BYU to make room for the ACC contract while retaining some of the storied rivalries such as USC, Michigan, and Navy.

But let's not forget one thing: Notre Dame is still independent in football. The switch to the ACC does not indicate, as many of suggested, that independence is not possible anymore. It only indicates what we all already knew: the Big East is dead.

Sure, the 5 game deal with the ACC might make things a bit more difficult, but BYU and Notre Dame have a healthy relationship that will make ditching the contract difficult for the Irish. Let's not sugar coat it; the 6-game series means a lot to BYU's independence prospects. Because of that, BYU will work day and night to make sure that all 6 games are played.

I still think that the Big 12 will eventually come knocking on BYU's door, this time ready to accept the Cougars' special limitations. Until then, BYU is in good position to sit tight on independence.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

If White is Hurt, Another Advantage for Cougars

I believe BYU is the better team in this year's edition of the rivalry. I truly do. I think they are more experienced, they have better leadership and they have more play makers. Maybe that's biased, oh well. That being said, another reason has recently surfaced that could give BYU another advantage in Saturday's showdown.

Word on the street is that Utah's starting running back, John White IV is hurt. He rolled his ankle in the loss against Utah State and saw limited action after the sprain. There has been no official word down from the hill whether or not they are sitting white out against the Cougars, but with him hampered, that takes away the Utes' biggest offensive weapon.

You may remember White torched BYU last season running for 174 yards and 3 scores in the blowout. Now, while many of those yards came in the second half when everything came undone for the Cougars, he is still a threat to be respected.

If White cannot go, or is limited in his role, this could be all the Cougars' D needs to pitch an impressive game against the boys up north.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beating Utah 101

At long last, Rivalry week is upon us again! The air is thick with trash talk, and the social media is on fire with taunts.

News has struck that Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn has finally decided to hang up his helmet for good, and stop playing. ITS ABOUT TIME! I'm not one to celebrate injuries (although I must admit I did laugh when I saw him go down) as I myself have endured many of them myself. In case you were wondering, I've dislocated my elbow 8 times... no joke, ask Big Bro!

Regardless, Wynn did not look sharp against the Aggies last Friday. His replacement looked far more composed and accurate, leading the Utah comeback that eventually fell short. BYU has been notoriously bad when a back up comes in, so this actually plays to BYUs favor, because now they can prepare for someone not made of glass, aka Jordan Wynn. BYU knows who they are going to face and can prepare accordingly. I do, however, expect to see Utah play both quarterbacks against BYU to see who they want to be their guy moving forward for the rest of the season. Both got playing time last Friday, so the cougars have film on them both.

In order for BYU to pull of a big win to propel them into the heart of their schedule, they must MUST run the ball effectively. The cougars had a decent ground game against Weber State, however that was expected. They ran for 225 yards, with Alisa getting the bulk of the carries. However, Alisa is yet to carry the ball more than 15 times in a game. This doesn't allow Alisa to gather momentum and a rhythm. I think this has to happen against a Utah defense that looked over matched against Utah State.

Needless to say, that Ute defense is not one to take for granted. The Utes have some play makers that Utah State was able to keep contained for the most part, but can make a big play at any moment. Look for the ground game to be established, complimented nicely by the cougar passing attack led by Riley Nelson and Cody Hoffman.

This cougar defense is good. Greg Wrubell recently tweeted that through the first two games, BYU has held their opponents to an average of 3rd and 8.5 yards to go! That is impressive. If BYU can continue to do that against the team up north, I can see this being a good day for BYU. Utah doesn't seem to have an offensive identity yet, and that is something Kyle Van Noy and the cougar D can prey upon.

If Bronco's cougars can establish a running game with a lead back (Michael Alisa w/ 15+ carries 85+ yard) and have good 3rd down defense, I see BYU coming away with a win in Salt Lake City.

BYU 24 Utah 17

Sunday, September 9, 2012

BYU Ranked, but Schedule Tougher than Anticipated

The AP ranked BYU 25th this morning, making the Cougars' aspirations for a BCS bowl more attainable than before. But the road will be anything but easy, judging by the success BYU's future opponents have had already this year.

BYU fans already had Utah, Boise State, and Notre Dame circled on their calendars, but some surprise challenges may be ahead. Friday night saw Utah State's first win over the Utah Utes since 1997, and Utah State looked proficient on both sides of the ball. Utah State, who comes to Provo for another Friday night game on October 5th, probably won't roll over against the Aggie fans' most hated rival.

Oregon State showed they are no pushover by beating
Wisconsin Saturday.
Similarly, several other future BYU opponents have also showed their abilities in the first two weeks of action. Oregon State shocked the college football world by upsetting #12 Wisconsin on Saturday in a grind-it-out defensive battle. Georgia Tech lost in a thriller to 16th-ranked Virginia tech but bounced back with a 59-3 clobbering of Presbyterian College.

In short, BYU's schedule suddenly looks pretty tough for the next month or two. The Cougars' next 7 games are against Utah, Boise State, Hawaii, Utah State, Oregon State, Notre Dame, and Georgia Tech. (Although Hawaii got smashed by #2 USC, they always get up to play the Cougars). In reality, BYU can't look forward to games as easy as weeks 1 and 2 until they finish out the season against WAC foes San Jose State and New Mexico State.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What the Cougars Learned Friday Night about the Utes, Aggies

The BYU football team undoubtedly grabbed some popcorn and enjoyed the show Friday night as future Cougar opponents Utah and Utah State squared off in ESPN's Friday night game.  I hope they were paying attention, because there are some things they should remember about these teams.

Utah State's Mark Hutchinson sacks Utah's Jordan Wynn
1. Utah's offensive line is suspect. The Utah State defense mixed up coverages, brought blitzes from lots of directions, and got good pushes from their defensive line, resulting in constant pressure on the Utah quarterbacks. The o-line looked confused and overpowered by the onslaught of Aggie pressure.

2. Utah's quarterbacks rattle quickly under pressure.  Because of the aforementioned defensive pressure, the Utah quarterbacks (all three of them) were constantly on the run. Before going down with yet another injury, Jordan Wynn was 6/11with only 47 yards, and it seemed like he spent most of that time with his facemask in the grass. Jon Hays had a few brights spots, leading the Utes to a comeback, but he, too, found himself rushing throws and missing marks. BYU could learn something from this defensive strategy and utilize its skilled linebackers and cornerbacks to confuse Utah's o-line in a few weeks.

3. Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei can be neutralized.  No doubt Lotulelei is a special player, but he was nowhere to be found Friday night. Perhaps it was the Aggies' mobile quarterback that kept him from getting any sacks and limited him to one tackle. Whatever the Aggies did (I admit, I'm not sure what it was), they proved that Lotulelei could be held back.

3. Utah's State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is a baller.  BYU has a long history of trouble with mobile quarterbacks, so I hope the Cougars were paying close attention to Chuckie Keeton. He ran the option to perfection, holding onto the ball until the very last second, reading the defense with skill, and throwing on the run with precision. He was clearly the leader of the team and seemed very cool under pressure. He made plays when he really needed to, both with his feet and with his arm.

4. Don't count out the Aggies. Friday's game had the same feeling as when Utah State beat BYU in 2010. Everyone could tell they wanted it very badly, and they played like they believed they could win. To their credit, Utah came back to tie it in the second half after going down 13-0 in the first quarter, but the Aggies made Journey proud and never stopped believing.

BYU vs. Weber State Predictions

Can you believe it's already Week 2? The Cougars got off to a great start, and they are expected to continue to roll against Weber State tomorrow.

Here are the Sports Bro's predictions for tomorrow's game:

Little Bro:

While Big Bro wants to go conservative on this pick, I will go more realistic. While I agree that Bronco and gang will not lay the smack down like Oklahoma State did on Savanna State (84-0), I do expect BYU to win and win big. BYU simply has too much talent to stay out of the endzone. I expect Riley to play one or two series in the third quarter (even though he shouldn't) and Taysom Hill to get some quality reps. The ground game should be much improved, and maybe even surpass the 200 yard mark. Riley throws for 225 and 2 scores in just over a half of work. Apo catches his first TD of the season on a deep ball. Alisa breaks the 100 yard barrier for the first time in his career, while the cougar denfense forces 3 turnovers (2 picks 1 fumble). BYU rolls.

BYU 51, Weber State 10

Big Bro:

Although this should be an easy win, look for BYU to play conservatively so as not to tip their hand too much with Utah and Boise State coming up. I expect Doman and Mendenhall to get the running backs involved a lot and rotate the young players in more than normal. This will not only give some needed field time to the youngsters, but allow for player to avoid injuries and heal from existing ones. While I expect BYU to win easily, I don't think it will be as big as some are predicting.

BYU 38, Weber State 10

Little Bro Wins Week 1 Pick 'Em on Cougarblue

In case you didn't catch it (or didn't know his real name), but Little Bro took honorary first place in Cougarblue's College Pick 'Em contest, guessing every game correctly and losing the tie-breaker by just a few points to the the host writer, Jared Lloyd. Lloyd wrote:

"My victory was earned by the fact that my tiebreaker final score prediction of BYU's win over Washington State (26-14) was judged just slightly closer to the actual 30-6 score than that of Aaron Kartchner (who ended up second by predicting 31-17) and Mike Gotfredson and Aaron Johnson (who both said 35-17).

Since this is my contest, I'm going to go ahead and pass the weekly prize on to Kartchner, who should be pretty proud of his performance."

There you have it. Little Bro has been inducted as a legit sports blogger with street cred.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Taysom Hill, Best Qb in the Country

Ok, he didn't qualify to actually rank in most people's lists. But BYU quarterback Taysom Hill's performance on Thursday against the Washington State Cougars made him number one in the nation with a QB rating of 581.2.

Hill saw the field three or four times and completed his only throw on an option-pass to a wide open Kaneakua Friel. He also managed to run the ball twice for six yards. The ESPN announcers repeatedly referenced quotes by Bronco Mendenhall that Hill is "pound-for-pound the best athlete on the team," and Hill even lined up to kick an extra point before the blue Cougars called a time out.

Hill's appearances tipped BYU's hand a bit, showing that they do, in fact, plan on using him in the wildcat, particularly in the blue zone. Hill is technically listed third on the depth chart behind senior James Lark, but Lark saw no action on Thursday.

I said a few weeks ago that BYU needs to utilize Hill as much as possible to get him ready for 2013 when the Cougars face one of their toughest schedules ever. It's nice to see him taking the field and making the most of it.

P.S. Riley Nelson's QB rating ranked him 5th among those who threw enough passes to qualify for a ranking.