September 14, 2012
The Holy War Preview
The rivalry is alive and well for now, and tomorrow it will be on full display. BYU comes into the game ranked and favored, but Utah has won the last two rivalry games and the 2011 Holy War might have been the most embarrassing loss in BYU history.
In spring of 2010 the future looked very bright for both programs at the quarterback position. Wynn had just picked apart the Cal Bears in the Utes bowl victory, and Heaps had just enrolled and wowed onlookers in spring camp. Aside from the likely growing pains that comes with starting a true freshman at QB in 2010 (not to mention a two quarterback system) I was positive that each school was set at the QB position for a long time. Each school's woes at QB the last couple of years have been eerily similar. The highly and decently recruited pocket passers are gone, Heaps was replaced due to ineffectiveness and Wynn replaced due to his unfortunate string of shoulder injuries. What each school has starting for them now is a gritty mobile quarterback who had few or no division 1 offers coming out of high school, and is fairly limited in terms of arm strength and accuracy. And each school now has their highly recruited true freshman that comes into the game for situational work.
Riley should be able to find success against this Utah defense. The weakness of this defense is the linebacking corps, so I expect Friel, Wilson, Holt and Falslev to have a field day. Expect BYU to employ a similar game plan as Utah State, quick routes and quick throws. Keeton is really good throwing on the run so Utah State did really well rolling him out of the pocket, but Riley isn't as good throwing on the run so I'm not sure how much BYU will be moving him out of the pocket. Hoffman is going to have 8+ catches for 100+ yards, but that's not due to any Utah weakness in the secondary, it's just how he rolls, regardless of opponent. Due to the lack of speed in the Utah linebacking corps I think that BYU will find a lot of success throwing bubble screens to the wide receivers, and the passing windows on slants will be bigger for Riley and his receivers. Utah State didn't throw much to their receivers, which told me that the Utah's quality defensive backs took them out of the game. Utah State's go to wide receiver Matt Austin only had 2 catches for 28 yards, so it's possible that any wide receiver not named Hoffman might have a hard time getting open beyond the quick throws in this game. The big question is if Riley attempts any hero throws that result in BYU turnovers. Riley hasn't faced a defense this athletic since TCU's defense last year that forced him into some costly turnovers. He was playing from behind because of BYU's special teams blunders, so it will be key to limit mistakes to keep from playing from behind against Utah.
Kerwin Williams saw a lot of success running the ball against Utah. Once again probably because of the speed of Utah's linebacking corps, Williams and Keeton both found some space running outside the tackles. Utah State is probably a better run blocking team than BYU as well, because Utah State was even able to get some yardage running in between the tackles. I don't anticipate BYU getting more than a handful of yards all game in between the tackles. The Cougar's best chance for yards up the middle is Riley taking off up the middle on a broken pass play, but that will likely be very ineffective, so hopefully Riley tries that only as a last resort. Star Lotulelei is so athletic, and so strong, and BYU's interior run blocking is so weak, running at him isn't even an option. Although BYU is athletic enough to run it outside the tackles, when a team becomes one dimensional in where they attack the defense it becomes much harder to successfully run the ball. I foresee Utah's outside linebackers playing wider than they did against Utah State, and the defensive ends will also be able to pin their ears back on an outside rush since there is no threat up the middle. Overall I will be very surprised if BYU runs for more than 100 yards as a team.
At least BYU's O-Line isn't as bad as Utah's offensive line. That was one of the biggest disparities in my eyes in last year's blow out. Utah's offensive line was so much better than BYU's last year, it was night and day watching the two offenses operate. The ineffectiveness of the Utah offensive line is going to be a big reason why Utah will take a step backward in the Pac 12 South in their second year in the conference. That, and having a first year offensive coordinator still in his 20's. The Utah offensive line is very poor at pass blocking and they're not a very good run blocking unit, although they are much better than BYU's offensive line in that department. Utah will run for more than 100 yards, and John White IV will probably come close to that mark himself, because he will be right around 30 carries, and as a team they will run the ball more than 40 times. They are a pretty good running team, although they aren't as good on the ground as they were last year. They run the ball almost exclusively in between the tackles, and when there is a hole there John White IV can get 10 yards in a hurry. There won't be very many holes for him to run through against this BYU defense, and he'll probably only average 3 yards a carry or so. Utah is going to have a really hard time moving the chains.
Expect Utah to also try to make quick throws, although they won't find much success there against this BYU secondary. They don't attempt very many intermediate throws to the receivers, Hays isn't quite accurate and strong enough to make intermediate throws toward the sideline. The only completion I saw him make that way was the corner route to Kenneth Scott for the game tying touchdown in the 4th quarter. Scott does a really nice job of going up and making a play on the ball, and Christopher is a really good receiver, so they'll make some plays regardless of how well they are covered. The deepest completions that Utah made during the game other than Scott's two touchdown catches were to tight ends over the middle. Murphy and Rolf are both big and really good athletes. They're good targets for Hays, so BYU will need to focus on stopping them. I expect the BYU secondary to continue their domination, and the BYU pass rush will be in the Utah backfield all game long. Hays is going to struggle to consistently make accurate throws, and I expect BYU to force some Hays turnovers.
The two big differences from Utah's team last year versus this year is how much worse the offensive line is this year and their new offensive coordinator. Utah isn't going to be able to score very many points at all. BYU's offense will live and die with Riley in this game, and I see more living this time around. 24-13 BYU.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial