The results from previous games this season aren't saying very much about who will win. While the Utah offense is ranked 17th in the nation averaging 539 yards per game, that includes a 600+ yard output against FCS opponent Weber State. While Travis Wilson has put up some impressive numbers, and the Utah ground game appears to be solid, if not better, according to the stats, they have been inconsistent at scoring. In their two games against FBS schools, Utah has fallen behind by 10 points in each game. Against Utah State it was a lull in the second and third quarters that nearly cost them the game. Against Oregon State it was a slow start that got Utah in a hole.
What to make of the Utah defense? Utah State put up 30 points in the season opener, and Oregon State just hit the half century mark (51, to be exact). Even with the benefit of playing WAY overmatched Weber State, the Utah defense is just 69th in the nation allowing 394.3 yards per game. However, Utah State and Oregon State did most of their damage through the air.
How well will BYU be able to run the ball? Utah didn't experience the fullness of Jamaal Williams last season (8 carries) or Taysom Hill (1 carry). What will Lasike's power add? When Harvey Unga was in the backfield, BYU never had trouble running on the Utes. The last three seasons have been a different story.
The BYU defense will be down one man (Spencer Hadley) who was suspended for five games this week. How his replacement plays can go a long way in determining the outcome of this game. The Cougar defense isn't putting up as impressive numbers as it did last year, but there seems to be more playmakers. All-American candidate Kyle Van Noy is joined by Alani Fua, Eathyn Manumaleuna, Bronson Kaufusi, Uani Unga, Daniel Sorensen, and Craig Bills. All have made multiple big plays already this season, and on any play could make THE play that changes the momentum and outcome of the game.
Of course, don't underestimate the power of emotions in this game. Nobody wants to lose ever, but especially this year. Smack and stats have not been able to separate these two teams, but, even if it did, the emotions can make it play out differently on the field. That will speak louder than anything else.
All-time series: Utah leads 54-31-4
Last: Utah won 24-21 (2012)
Streak: Utah won 3
KICKOFF: 8:15 PM (Mountain Time), Saturday, September 21
TV: ESPN2, www.watchespn.com
RADIO: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, www.ksl.com