Here's a look of how the upcoming BYU-Utah State matchups break down:
BYU offense vs Utah State defense
The Cougar offense behind Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams ran all over the place against Hawaii, but the Aggies are a completely different story. Led by leading tacklers McKade Brady and Zach Vigil, Utah State is only allowing opponents 106 yards per game on the ground. That means the Cougars will need to diversify the offense if they want to have success, something they haven’t done well against good opponents.
Edge: Utah State
Utah State offense vs. BYU defense
The Aggies will have the most consistent offense the Cougars have faced this season and should prove to be bigger challenge to the stout BYU defense. Led by Chuckie Keeton at quarterback and the versatility of Kerwyn Williams, USU has a variety of weapons. But the Cougars aren’t statistically a Top 5 defense for no reason. BYU will make plenty of plays and limit the Aggie offensive success.
Utah State head coach Gary Andersen has taken an Aggie program no one respected and turned it into a unit to be feared. He and the USU coaching staff have done an incredible job getting the players to buy into the system and make it work. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has frequently lauded that turnaround, but he also has proven he can get a program back onto a winning track. His staff also showed some growth with the changes it instigated to get the offense rolling again, but this will be a much better barometer.
The Aggies are in a position to do something they haven’t done since 1971: Beat BYU and Utah in the same year. This USU team has reached a point where it expects to go on the road and compete. It’s still learning how to win close games, however, but the same could be said for the 2012 Cougar squad. BYU will be playing at home but that didn’t stop the Aggies from nearly defeating the Cougars in 2011. That game launched the resurgent career of BYU quarterback Riley Nelson, who started as a freshman at Utah State.
Utah State running back Kerwyn Williams vs. BYU defensive line
Williams isn’t just a beast running the ball for the Aggies (89 carries, 519 yards, three touchdowns) but he is also very dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield. He leads USU with 18 catches for 262 yards and two more scores. The Cougars have been limited up front by injuries but have found ways to plug in other players without any noticeable dropoff. BYU has size and speed on the front to be able to tie up the blockers, making it more difficult for Williams to break free.
It’s hard to imagine either team being able to move the ball consistently, which indicates it will be another low-scoring contest. In those games, field position can be key so look for BYU punter Riley Stephenson to help the Cougars in that area. This will be another fourth-quarter showdown but this time it’s the BYU defense that makes the big stop to preserve the win.
BYU 22, Utah State 18