For this week's look at the Brigham Young University Cougars, we turn to Dick Harmon of the Deseret News. Harmon takes us behind the curtain at BYU, offering his assessment of the Cougars this season and how he thinks they will match up against Colorado State, Saturday in Provo.
Goldandgreennews.com: Most folks following BYU this week will tell you they know the Cougars beat Oklahoma and lost to Florida State. What is the mood of the team after such success and such a tough home opener? Was last week more of a hiccup than anything else?
Harmon: I think the win over Oklahoma and the loss to FSU at home were two exact opposites in the emotion department for BYU fans. They anticipated this team was on its way to something special and should have taken care of FSU. Instead, FSU took care of the Cougars. I think FSU's staff did a great job preparing for the game. They hadn't shown the run in two previous games which were sloppy. FSU cleaned it up and came after the Cougars, who made the mistake of looking at Jacksonville State-FSU results and lost an edge.
Goldandgreennews.com: Offensively, the Cougars' offense is chugging along with Max Hall passing for 339 yards per game and the running game offering enough yardage to take some of the pressure of the pass (114 ypg). However, there are some new names at the top of the stat sheet for the Cougars in Bryan Kariya (177 yards rushing) and O'Nei Chambers (13 rec.). Tell us how the BYU offense has evolved from the impressive numbers it had a year ago with the loss of Austin Collie in the receiving unit.
Harmon: With Harvey Unga out the first two games, it forced a guy like Kariya to play early. He surprised everyone including the coaches against Tulane and Oklahoma. His development certainly adds depth to the Cougar running game which entered the season with question marks about who will help Unga. BYU's offense may be tougher to defend without Collie because Hall really looked him down and focused on him all the time, thus, he led the NCAA in receiving. Hall is now spreading the ball around to 8 to 12 receivers a game and doing so consistently. McKay Jacobson, who is faster than Collie, leads the nation in yards per catch. He is the real deal.
Goldandgreennews.com: Florida State certainly found a way to attack the Cougar defense last week, gaining 313 yards on the ground. What did BYU feel went wrong and how are they working to change it the week before welcoming a Colorado State team that likes to establish the run early? Who are the stars of this defense and what do they do well?
Harmon: FSU simply beat BYU man on man and overpowered them at the point of attack. They scouted BYU's tendencies real well and BYU had a tough time adjusting to something else when nothing seemed to work. I think after two long drives with a BYU fumble in the redzone mixed in, it really had an impact on the defense and frustration set in. BYU's front seven is very good and the most experienced part of the D. The linebacking corps is active and athletic but not that quick. Coleby Clawson, who took out Sam Bradford with that de-cleater is a very good rusher. This is a more athletic secondary than the Cougars have had in five years. The corners even come up and press cover at times in BYU's zone-oriented coverages. The safety, Andrew Rich is the best hitter on the team and forced two fumbles from Oklahoma rushers.
Goldandgreennews.com: BYU holds one of the better homefield advantages in the Mountain West Conference. For someone who has never been to Provo on gameday, describe the scene and how that translates to success on the field for the Cougars.
Harmon: BYU's lucky to have a great student population that lives on campus and can walk to games. It's patrons are also faithful and all games are sold out this year. It is a loud stadium and regularly ranks among the top three or four in the West in attendance figures. It is a very attractive setting with the Wasatch Mountains in the background as you face east from the press box. Mendenhall has made home field advantage a priority since he took the job. That FSU came in and dominated so well was a surprise and it shut up the fans all game long.
Goldandgreennews.com: Finally, what are your three keys to this game and what do you predict will be the final score?
Harmon: I think turnovers will decide this game. BYU has given up 10 turnovers so far and 20 in the last five games dating back to last season. I do think this offense will move the ball on anybody it faces and if the defense recovers from last week, it will be a force for the Rams to reckon with. On the other hand, BYU showed a weakness in handling a mobile QB and if the Rams exploit this, it will be very interesting. I think BYU has to be favored in this game and while the Rams showed last year they are more than capable of getting turnovers and sticking with the Cougars, I'll predict BYU 34, CSU 21.