BYU will have a huge challenge on Saturday, when the 15th-ranked Texas Longhorns roll into Provo. Led by standout quarterback David Ash and a no-huddle offense, the Cougars defense is facing a large task.
The D was outstanding against Virginia, giving up only 3.1 yards per play and 223 total yards. The same can't be said of the offense, as the "go fast, go hard" approach wasn't executed well in Charlottesville. Taysom Hill completed only 13 of 40 passes, and although Jamaal Williams rushed for 144 yards, it still wasn't enough for the win.
The Cougs will look to change that against a Longhorns defense that gave up 346 yards to New Mexico State, and at home, it could be a feasible accomplishment. Texas is a good team, and BYU has its work cut out.
When: Saturday, Sept. 7; 5 p.m. MDT
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
Radio: KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM; BYU Radio, Sirius XM 143
Spread: Texas (-7.5), per VegasInsider.com
Get (and keep) the offense rolling
It took a long time for BYU to put together a drive that came remotely close to scoring against Virginia. And it took much longer for it to score. Facing a Texas offense that can put points on the board, BYU will need to do the same and do it consistently.
Good offensive line play
BYU's line struggled against UVa's solid defensive front, and it will need to step up against Texas. With standout ends including Cedric Reed and Jackson Jeffcoat, the protection will have to be much improved.
Get pressure on the quarterback
BYU did a good job of getting in the backfield against Virginia but never picked up a sack. That will have to change against Texas, as David Ash compiled four touchdowns through the air against NMSU but showed weakness with two interceptions.
Get a strong offensive start
Texas got off to a slow start last week against New Mexico State, as it didn't find the end zone until late in the second quarter. The Longhorns will need to score much quicker than that against a feisty Cougars defense, as any momentum gained by BYU's D could go a long way.
Take advantage of deep passes
David Ash proved that he has a gun for an arm last week, as he completed three touchdown passes of more than 50 yards (the longest was 74). Against a BYU secondary that has struggled with depth and experience, sticking with long routes could work perfectly.
Don't forget about BYU's passing game
Cougar quarterback Taysom Hill struggled while running back Jamaal Williams shined last week, but the aerial attack could be completely different if receiver Cody Hoffman is healthy. Texas shouldn't focus on stopping the rushing game but instead expect a solid balance of run and pass.
Cody Hoffman (WR)
After missing the opener with a hamstring injury, Hoffman is "probable" for the Texas game, per Jay Drew of The Salt Lake Tribune. Having the standout receiver on the field will add a lot to BYU's struggling offense and could be exactly what Taysom Hill needs.
Jamaal Williams (RB)
Despite playing on a slick field and with a struggling offensive line, Jamaal Williams managed to rush for 144 yards, gaining four yards per carry. On his home field this weekend, it will be interesting to see how he performs.
Uani 'Unga (LB)
After a great game against UVa, with 10 tackles and one for loss, 'Unga is still questionable for the Texas game with a rib injury. If he does play, though, 'Unga is definitely someone to keep an eye on.
Kyle Van Noy (LB)
If there is currently a better college linebacker in the country than Kyle Van Noy, let me know. The Reno, Nevada, native is a playmaking machine and has knowledge of the game that is paralleled by few. He will keep you entertained and is one of the nation's premier college football players.
David Ash (QB)
After a five-touchdown performance against New Mexico State, Ash proved that he could score with his arm and his legs. BYU's defense is definitely a step up from the Aggies', but I'm sure Ash is up for the challenge.
Jackson Jeffcoat (DE)
BYU struggled to protect its quarterback throughout last week's game, and if Texas wants to take advantage of that, it'll start with Jeffcoat. The 6'5" defensive end recorded seven tackles against New Mexico State and is a huge part of the defense.
Malcolm Brown (RB)
Brown averaged one yard per carry in the opener but still played a huge role in the Longhorns offense. With 109 receiving yards on only three receptions, Brown lit up the Aggies defense and capped it off with a 79-yard touchdown catch.
BYU lineman Manaaki Vaitai, per The Salt Lake Tribune:
They are pretty much bigger than life there. Everybody knows about the Longhorns. They're almost as big as the [Dallas] Cowboys, kind of like a state treasure.
We know they're very dangerous. They'll be a little bit like a wounded animal. We'll get a better version of BYU than what we saw on tape from the Virginia game. A lot of very unusual circumstances. They've got an up-tempo, fast-paced offense that will be eager to show they’re better than how they presented themselves week one.
BYU wide receiver Ross Apo, per the Deseret News:
I looked forward to it the last time we played them. I wanted to beat them so bad. I have the same approach this year. I just want to beat them, whatever it takes, however we can beat them. I just want to beat them.
Honestly, anything can happen this weekend in Provo. It's hard to judge Texas' offense against a weak team like New Mexico State, and the same can be said about a Hoffman-less BYU. In the end, what will decide the game is whose defense is worn down first.
Both teams run high-tempo offenses, and although neither is perfect, they will be effective. It won't be a ridiculously high-scoring game, but we can expect to see points on the board.
Last year's Oregon State vs. BYU game could be similar to this: OSU was a high-ranked team coming in to Provo, and it was a neck-and-neck contest until the fourth quarter. Turnovers became costly at that point, and the Beavers snuck away with a win. This game could be similar, with Texas coming out on top.
Prediction: Texas wins, 31-21