That’s all on the plate for sure.
But this game will be won in the trenches and a big key for the Cougars is how they defend a potent, yard-gobbling, big-play passing attack featuring one of the best QB-WR combos in college football.
All it will take is for Hank Bachmeier and Khalil Shakir to hook up for four or five touchdown passes and the undefeated and No. 10-ranked Cougars will be in trouble.
Just remember how BYU tried to contain Arizona’s Stanley Berryhill (No. 6 nationally) and USU’s Deven Thompkins (No. 9 nationally). It was tough. Yes, BYU won those games, but those receivers put up big numbers, as they usually do.
BYU has the No. 99th pass defense in the country and will face the best quarterback they’ve faced so far this year in Boise State’s Bachmeier (No. 9). His favorite target is Shakir, the No. 10-ranked receiver in the country.
The best way to stop, or at least slow down, this potent duo is to get after Bachmeier, whose protection has been spotty this season. The other way is to keep BSU’s offense on the sideline by chewing up clock and yards with BYU’s offense, in particular the Cougars’ run game.
Fortunately for the Cougars, they’ve had great success with a very physical three- and four-man front featuring Gabe Summers, Earl Tuioti-Mariner, Atunaisa Mahe, Uriah Leiataua, Tyler Batty and Caden Haws. Plus, a combination of ever-changing reserves that have yet to be subdued. A big plus has been how linebacker Ben Bywater has stepped in for injured captain Keenan Pili at middle linebacker.
When the Cougars’ defense gets nasty, QBs are unsettled quickly.
BSU ranks 96th in total defense, 62nd in passing yards allowed, and 107th in rush yards allowed.
BYU has to make BSU one-dimensional and invite the Bachmeier to Shakir connection. They’d better be ready to keep it out of the end zone.
The Broncos have struggled to run the ball this season for myriad reasons and no doubt BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki hopes to make the Broncos’ offense shift to the pass game.
Last week, BYU’s defense held Utah State to 22 yards on the ground. This, after the Aggies had gained 222, 217, 180, 235 yards in previous games for an average of 213.5 per contest.
This would appear to be the Cougars’ ticket Saturday regardless of who starts at quarterback.
BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick is wary of the Broncos, despite their 2-3 record, which is very un-Boise State-like.
Roderick pointed to close games against Central Florida and Oklahoma State that could have gone either way. A beat-up Broncos team struggled to stop Nevada last week.
“You look at film and you see a lot of the same numbers, players who have been there for the past two or three years. I respect their coaching staff and their team. They are very good,” said Roderick.
“I don’t see a big difference in this team over the Boise State teams of the past,” he said.
One thing is certain since BYU and Boise State began playing each other every year, they have been intense and exciting affairs.