On Friday night, Utah State will head down to Provo, Utah, to take on 18th-ranked BYU in a primetime matchup on ESPN. Kickoff is set for 8:30 pm MT.
The Mountain West Connection recently caught up with Kevin Kennedy (@Kevin4byu), assistant managing editor of Vanquish the Foe, which covers all things Cougars.
Kevin provides some insight into the current state of Aggie football, plus some keys to the game and prediction,
1. What has been the key to BYU being undefeated thus far this season?
Although there are a number of reasons why the Cougars are 4-0 at this point, one of the most glaring is their ability to score inside the red zone. Last year it seemed like a struggle all year and fans cringed when the ball passed the 20. This year the Cougars are 18 of 19 inside the red zone with 13 of those being touchdowns. That being said, this could only happen with an offense that has become much more consistent.
2. How is the Cougar game plan going to vary if Keeton or Garretson starts at quarterback?
The coaches will say it won't make a difference but we all know that the QB situation isn't the same. If Keeton plays, and is healthy, the Cougars must account for his legs. This would require sound assignment defense and a possible spy by a linebacker. If Garretson is playing, he hasn't shown the near the ability to make plays with his legs. If he is in the game the Cougars will most likely try to rattle and pressure him with a more aggressive pass rush. The Cougars are confident in their secondary so it will free up guys to try and force Garretson into mistakes.
3. We know Taysom Hill can throw and run with the ball. What will be the key to stopping him?
I am not sure if there is a way to stop Hill but the Aggies can try and slow him down by having an effective spy. A couple of different teams have used the spy but they haven't had the athletes to keep up with Hill. If the Aggies can find the player that will not be brushed off at the point of contact, or won't take a bad angle and be outrun by Hill, it will force hill to either give the ball to a running back, or pass the ball. As USU found out last year, that can also be a problem so the secondary MUST stay with their man and play almost perfect coverage in order to give Hill the least amount of wiggle room possible. I am guessing it is much easier said than done.
4. With the game being down in Provo, do you think it will have any effect on the Aggies playing at LaVell Edwards?
I think initially it may have an effect on the younger player but there isn't a time difference or an issue with jet lag so once the game starts it will be easier to adjust. The key though will not be letting the Cougars start fast and letting the crowd into the game. Once the crowd gets going, it could cause problems with communication and emotion in guys not used to playing in big stadiums. Playing at Tennessee should have given the players an understanding of what to expect, but the crowd emotion in the second half after the Jim McMahon Hall of Fame Ceremony could be an X Factor.
5. What will be the biggest factor in the Cougars winning the game?
I would say the biggest factor will be the play of the secondary. At this point we just assume the offense will score 30+ points but it is up to the secondary to keep the Aggies to less than that. The secondary is talented but has been haunted with mistakes that allowed Virginia and Houston to make plays. When third and long comes around, they must stay with their man and make the play and avoid the stupid penalties.
6. What will be the biggest factor in the Cougars losing the game?
If the Cougars lose this game it will be because of turnovers. If the offense is giving USU a shot at short fields, and putting the defense in bad positions, it could backfire very quickly. All it takes is a couple of short scoring drives to put some doubt in the defense and BYU would be trying to play catch up. The BYU defense must also force turnovers on their side of the ball. If BYU loses the turnover battle by 3+, Cougar fans may be in for a scare.
7. Who do you think will win this game?
I think the Cougars should come away with the win, but I have yet to see a reason why they will win by the line that is currently at 20-ish. I wouldn't be surprised to see something similar to the Virginia/Houston games where BYU goes up early but lets USU hang around before finally putting them away in the second half. I would say something around 38-24 when the whistle blows.