Know Your Foe: BYU Cougars Preview

Sarah Glenn

Georgia Tech takes on BYU this weekend for its annual Homecoming game. FTRS takes a look at some things you should know heading into this match-up.

Record: (4-4)

Wins: Washington State (30-6), Weber State (45-13), Hawaii (47-0), Utah State (6-3)

Losses: @Utah (24-21), @Boise State (7-6), Oregon State (42-24), @Notre Dame (17-14)

Notice that BYU has lost all 3 road games, but by a combined 7 points. The Utah loss doesn't look good given Utah's 2-5 record, but they've played some good teams very close (including 6-2 Utah State, #7 Oregon State, and #5 Notre Dame).

Head Coach: Bronco Mendenhall since 2005 (70-28)

BYU under Mendenhall has been largely successful, with 5 of 7 seasons so far including 10 wins or more. They won 2 MWC championships in 2006 and 2007 but spent the time since under the shadow of Utah and TCU. They're also 5 for 7 in postseason games. This year marks only the third time that the Cougars have lost 4 games in a season under Mendenhall.

Stats (Nat'l Ranking): 217 Passing Yards/Game (76th), 160 Rushing Yards/Game (67th), 24.1 Points/Game (89th), 14 Points Allowed/Game (8th)

You'll notice that BYU's offense is nothing special. To put things into perspective, they don't rank in the top half of the country in any of those offensive categories. However, their defense is quite the spectacle. Only 2 of the 8 teams that they've played have scored as many as 20 points. Our offense has been good to date, but hasn't had competition quite like this. For a few more stats, take a look at what millsGT49 has so graciously provided us:

BYU Stats:

BYU OFF DEF
S&P+ 39 13
FEI 51 22
FBS Drive Stats 39 11

GT Stats:

GT OFF DEF
S&P+ 34 90
FEI 17 73
FBS Drive Stats 25 88

The picks:

FEI: BYU 27 - GT 24 (BYU 58% chance of winning)

F/+ (Which is half FEI): BYU by 6.1 (So if FEI has us losing by 3, and F/+ has us losing by 6.1, S&P+ hates us).

Leading Passer: Riley Nelson (1,236, 58.7%, 8 TD's, 10 INTs)

Nelson is a second year starter. As you can tell, he's no Peyton Manning. The accuracy is par to sub-par, and he turns the ball over more than he scores. However, the thing you don't see in these stats is that he's the third leading carrier on the team with 57 carries. Yes, he's only gotten 106 yards on those carries, but he's an athletic quarterback nonetheless. Look for the secondary to test Nelson's ability to make good throws.

Leading Rusher: Jamaal Williams (79 carries, 409 yards, 5 TDs)

"But Joey, only 5 TD's from the leading rusher and 8 from the leading passer? How on Earth are they scoring?" They're not. Remember: this offense is 89th in the country at 24.1 points/game. To compare, they've scored 26 TD's by passing and rushing in 8 games to Georgia Tech's 36 TD's in 7 games. It is not an overpowering offense. If they're going to beat our defense, it'll be by running the ball. They have four rushers (including Williams and Nelson) with over 100 yards on the season, but none with 500 yards. Georgia Tech has nobody with 500 yards rushing either, but five players with over 200 yards (again, over 7 games against BYU's 8).

Leading Receiver: Cody Hoffman (49 rec, 620 yards, 3 TD's)

Hoffman far and away leads the team in receptions and yards, with more than double the yards and almost double the receptions of the next guy. When Nelson is throwing, it's often to him. Of 166 completions among BYU's quarterbacks, 30% have been to him. Just one guy has gotten 30% of the attention from the passers (14 guys account for the other 70%). I look for Louis Young or Jemea Thomas to lock down Hoffman all afternoon.

History

2002 (GT 28, BYU 19)

Chan Gailey's 4th game as head coach saw the Jackets improve to 3-1 on the Flats against Gary Crowton's Cougars.

2003 (BYU 24, GT 13)

In the 2003 opener for both teams, Georgia Tech led 13-7 at halftime before allowing 17 straight points to BYU to close out the game. BYU dominated every facet of the game, refusing to surrender an offensive touchdown to Tech (the only TD for the Jackets came on a blocked kick return).

Prediction

I'm very nervous heading into this match-up. This game will be low-scoring due to BYU's good defense and poor offense. Georgia Tech will find a way to manufacture at least 17 points, and my guess is that BYU somehow gets to 13. Georgia Tech covers, by a score of 17-13.

What do you think, Tech fans? Should Tech be favored in this game? Do you think we pull off the win? Is BYU being massively underestimated in this game?

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