There is much to watch for in this mid-November showdown, here are just a few.
San Jose State quarterback David Fales is money when he lets the pigskin fly. Fales’s 72.4% pass completion rate sets this junior upon the NCAA throne for completion percentage and has San Jose State ranked 9th in the nation for passing yards. Fales has junior wide receiver Noel Grigsby as his go-to man downfield, who is a 1,000-yard club candidate with 914 yards and 7 touchdowns on the season.
This is the first time BYU has faced a top-ten ranked team in passing yards since they played Washington State in the season opener. The Cougars defended the pass well in that game, but were burned five weeks ago by Oregon State's pass attack. BYU has had great defense against the opposing teams’ running game, but has struggled at times in the secondary. Factor in the loss of key defensive players like Joe Sampson, and the BYU defense will have anything but a freebie on their hands Saturday night.
2. Second Half Performance
Game time longevity in college football is key. Too many games are lost in the fourth quarter with everything on the line. San Jose State hasn’t had that issue this season, outscoring opponents 168-81 in second half situations.
San Jose State has proven clutch thus far in the season during the second half. Just two weeks ago San Jose State outscored Idaho 28-0 in the final 22 minutes to turn a close, one-point game into a 42-13 blowout.
Of BYU’s four losses, two of them (Oregon St, Notre Dame) were caused, at least in part, by late-game deficiencies or simply being outscored (0 points in second half against Notre Dame, and 10 against Oregon St.). As noted two weeks ago on BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL, between the Hawaii and Georgia Tech games, BYU did not score a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Last year, the Spartans outscored BYU 13-6 in the second half.
Watch for which team comes out strongest during the second half.
3. Can San Jose State’s Offensive Line Hold Up?
BYU is ranked 4th in the nation for total defense, and San Jose State had a bad encounter with a top-10 ranked defense earlier in the season. In Utah State’s 49-27 rout of the Spartans in October, the Aggies notched a whopping 13 sacks on San Jose State quarterbacks. When BYU faced Utah State, the result was a clash of defensive titans which resulted in a scanty 6-3 final score.
Going toe-to-toe with BYU’s defense Saturday night will require San Jose State’s offensive line to dig in and provide ample time for David Fales to make is throws. Ezekiel Ansah was the first player to record a sack against Boise State. Ever since that game, Ansah has been tormenting offensive tackles. BYU is capable of bringing pressure from anywhere.
4. Who Comes Out of the Gates faster?
In five out of the six games where BYU has come out on top, they have come out of the gates scoring once in the first quarter and at least twice in the second. In both of San Jose State’s losses, they have failed to score a touchdown in the first quarter. This game, more especially than most, will be decided by momentum. Whichever team can come out of the gates first and lay a solid foundation for the rest of the game WITHOUT turning the ball over, will come away on top.
Watch for which team wins the first quarter.
5. Cody Hoffman
As a senior in high school, he logged over 1,000 yards receiving as a senior, including seven games with 100-yards. As a junior playing division I collegiate football, he has logged 797 yards with two regular-season games and a bowl game left. Hoffman needs to average at least 68 yards per game in the remaining 3 games of 2012 to reach the impressive 1,000-yard mark for receiving. He has averaged 79.7 in the first 10 games of the season.
Hoffman is a wide receiver with the athleticism, skill set, and potential to perform at the NFL level…provided the ball gets to him. A sometimes spotty BYU offensive line has to give QB Riley Nelson, who has struggled at times this season passing the ball under pressure, plenty of time to pinpoint the ball to the athletic Hoffman. The good news is the offensive line is reportedly much healthier now than it was in October. Riley Nelson has thrown for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Cougars’ last two outings that resulted in big wins for BYU, so Nelson should be coming into this game with some swag and really perform.
This game is also a homecoming for Hoffman. San Jose is a seven hour drive from Hoffman's hometown Crescent City, California. In Hoffman's "homecoming" game last year at Oregon State (5 hour drive), he set career highs for receptions and receiving yards in a game (9 and 162). However, Hoffman had just one reception for 8 yards against San Jose State last year.
A tough San Jose State squad knows a win will cement this year as a special season in school history. BYU hopes to finish off the regular season strong to have momentum going to San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl. This should be a great late-season bout.