BYU Cougars vs. Houston Cougars Complete Game Preview
After shredding Georgia Tech in Provo last weekend, BYU is preparing for another big game this week against the undefeated Houston Cougars. Although UH has beaten only one team with a winning record this year (Rice), they could pose a challenge at home for BYU.
The Cougars (of BYU) played a solid game against the Yellow Jackets, finding efficiency in the passing game and consistency through rushing. The defense was stout, and everything seemed to be clicking.
But BYU will need to bring another well-rounded game to Houston in order to leave with a win. Here is a complete preview.
BYU's Keys to Victory
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Find Offensive Balance
BYU put on quite the display of offensive balance against Georgia Tech. Taysom Hill threw for 244 yards and a touchdown along with 65 rushing yards and another trip to the end zone. Jamaal Williams ran for 86 yards and a TD, while Cody Hoffman and JD Falslev put together good receiving games (99 and 69 yards, respectively). The Cougs will need to have the same type of balance in Houston.
Continue Momentum into Second Half
As impressive as the offense looked last week, they did have off-and-on moments in the second half. With 345 first-half yards and only 112 in the second, there is much to improve on in the latter part of games. Unless BYU can build a huge lead in the early stages, it won't hurt to keep momentum rolling into the second half.
Despite the Cougar defense's struggle with takeaways in the first few games, BYU bounced back with two forced turnovers against the Yellow Jackets. With an impressive Alani Fua pick-six and Spencer Hadley's fumble return, BYU has plenty to build on against Houston.
Houston's Keys to Victory
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Get Pressure on Taysom Hill
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill has proved that he can make big passing plays when given time in the pocket, and if the pass protection is good, he will likely do the same to Houston. If UH can get backfield pressure and keep Hill contained, it could be a less stressful Saturday.
Slow Down BYU's Kickoff Returns
Starting drives with great field position has been a big help for BYU this season, and Houston needs to prevent that. Ranked 10th in the country in kickoff returns, BYU averages over 27 yards per return, and that is a huge momentum-builder. Houston should either focus on booting kickoffs into the back of the end zone or come up with stout special teams defense.
Complete Big Passing Plays
The biggest defensive weakness for BYU this year has been defending deep passes, and Houston should exploit that. UH averages 12.7 yards per completion and has done a great job at making big plays through the air. If it can do the same to BYU, then Houston will have a much better shot.
Key Players for the BYU Cougars
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Cody Hoffman (WR)
Hoffman is on the brink of breaking several school receiving records, including career receptions, touchdowns and yards, and has been a huge asset to the BYU offense. In only four games, he has caught 18 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown. If the trend continues, Hoffman should have a big game in Houston.
Taysom Hill (QB)
After struggling in the early stages of the season, Hill seemed to come alive against Middle Tennessee, and that momentum continued in wins over Utah State and Georgia Tech. He completed 65 percent of passes for 699 yards in that trio of games and could have another solid showing this weekend.
Alani Fua (LB)
Fua tied a season-low two tackles against Georgia Tech, but the stats don't tell the entire story. He was consistently getting backfield pressure and defending the pass, and ran in a 51-yard pick-six. Fua may not be receiving MVP accolades, but he is an outstanding player to keep an eye on.
Key Players for the Houston Cougars
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John O'Korn (QB)
Freshman quarterback O'Korn completed nearly 65 percent of his passes in the first four games but struggled last week against Memphis. On 43 percent passing UH still managed to pull off the win, but he will need to improve before facing BYU. Granted, O'Korn has thrown only one interception all year, but his biggest challenge will come this Saturday.
Deontay Greenberry (WR)
Ranked eighth in the country in receiving yards per game, Greenberry will likely pose the biggest challenge for BYU. A 6'3" speedster, the BYU defensive backs will have quite the task come Saturday, and they'd better be prepared.
Derrick Mathews/Efrem Oliphant (LBs)
To say that the linebacking duo of Oliphant and Mathews has some momentum going into the BYU game is an understatement. Less than a week removed from a combined 23-tackle showing against Memphis, a game in which they also combined to force three fumbles and recovered one, they should be ready to face BYU's rushing attack.
What They Are Saying
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BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae (via the Salt Lake Tribune):
They are undefeated, and in my opinion, [Houston] is a nationally ranked team. They should be ranked. They are 5-0.
Houston head coach Tony Levine (via KSL.com):
They are a very, very talented football program. When you look at this team, the first thing that stands out is how physical they are in their play and in their presence. They are big across the board, big at skill positions, at receivers, running backs, defensive backs, they are extremely physical.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall on UH quarterback O'Korn (via KSL.com):
I like him a lot…(he's) really mobile, very confident. If you hadn't told me he's a freshman, I wouldn't have guessed. I think he's doing a nice job.
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Houston is a great team on paper, but they have not yet played a good-to-great team. They will have their first big challenge this week against BYU, and it will be too much for them.
BYU will simply overpower Houston, and although UH has shown the potential to pull off an upset, the blue Cougars will leave with a Texas-sized win.
Final Prediction: BYU wins, 35-16