The Colorado State Rams (3-0) are traveling to LaVell Edwards Stadium to play the #19 Brigham Young Cougars (2-1) as the Rams are hoping to take down the perennial contending Cougars on the road. Ten years ago these teams opened up Mountain West Conference play of any sport in the exact same place. For both teams it is their first conference game of the year.
Catch all the action after the jump!
Last week saw BYU fall to an athletic Florida State team 54-28. Max Hall and the Cougars turned the ball over 5 times. Turnovers seem to be an issue this year for the Cougars, they have turned the ball over 10 times, nine of those were to FSU and Oklahoma defenses.
On offense BYU boasts one of the best passing games in the nation at 338 yards a game, good for 7th in the nation. Max Hall lost Austin Collie, who killed CSU last year, but has been able to find his other favorite target in TE Dennis Pitta who has 16 catches for 197 yards on the year. McKay Jacobson and O'Neill Chambers have also been frequent targets of Hall.
Harvey Unga has been slowed by a hamstring injury so far and limited to 13 carries, however those 13 carries have a shiny 8.77 yards per carry attached to them. The BYU coaching staff has to make a decision to sit him and get him healthy or let him play through it. Hamstrings are tricky and I would let him heal, but it is up to Bronco Mendenhall.
The defense was blown up last week for 54 points against a quick and spread out FSU offense. QB Christian Ponder was a very efficient 22 of 28 for 199 yards through the air with two touchdown passes and added 11 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown on the ground. They also had troubles with RB Ty Jones who ran for 108 yards on 12 carries. The Cougar defense failed to force a turnover at home for the first time since their home opener against Arizona in 2007.
CSU went to 3-0 for the first time since 1994 with a 35-20 win over Nevada last week. They finally put a full offensive game together and showed some life on 3rd downs.
On offense Grant Stucker had a zero turnover performance with 3 touchdown passes and another rushing. The big stat of the game was the Rams being 5 for 11 on 3rd down conversions, they were converting them at a 13.6% rate coming into the game. Stucker will need to show he can do it on the Rams firstroad game outside of Colorado this season.
John Mosure showed why he was my key to the game last week with 99 yards on 18 carries. He kept the Rams out of 3rd and long situations which helped keep the chains moving. WR Dion Morton should play a big role as he is the Rams best deep threat, a 40 yard per catch average. The offense will need to be firing on all gears if they expect to keep up with BYU.
The pleasant surprise so far this season is the Rams ability to create turnovers, 10 on the year. This is the method FSU used against BYU and it is the Rams only chance at keeping them out of the end zone. Safety Elijah Blu-Smith has his 3rd interception in as many games this year. Blu-Smith and the rest of the secondary will have to be aggressive but smart when going for interceptions, the worst thing that could happen would be to miss and allow a long easy touchdown.
Up front the Rams will have to contain Unga if he plays, which is likely. Gerard Thomas will be back at corner allowing DeAngelo Wilkinson to return to nickel which will help in the run and pass defense. The big surprise on defense is the Rams are only two sacks away from last year's total of 9, the D Line was considered a weakness over the off season.
The kicking team coverage will have to step up as they are currently 103rd in the nation allowing 25.5 yards a return. Field position is a battle CSU needs to win to stay in the game.
The Rams are not being given much of a chance in this one. I am not going to call upset and say the Rams win big, but I do think it ends up closer then the 17 point spread. These aren't your Rams of the last few years; they cause turnovers, get pressure, have speed to keep up with most teams, and an offense that is nearing the top of the MWC in quality. Look for a close game in Provo this weekend.