Check out my responses to the guys at Vanquish the Foe!
FTRS: Last year BYU manhandled Georgia Tech in a game that left many Tech fans cringing. However, it seems like this year's BYU team is struggling in places last year's team didn't. What should we expect to see that's different on the macro level?
VTF: The big changes for BYU have come on the offensive side of the ball. Former offensive coordinator Robert Anae has returned to the Cougars after several years with Arizona and installed a new uptempo offense that has heavily favored the run over the pass. BYU's biggest struggled has been to implement a successful passing game in the new system, but has had some success in that area in its last two games.
On the defensive side, the Cougar run stuffing has been weakened with the graduation of Ziggy Ansah and Romey Fuga. We still have a very strong defense but one that allows some run yardage instead of none.
FTRS: How does Taysom Hill compare to Riley Nelson, and how does the fanbase feel about both of them?
VTF: Taysom Hill is bigger, faster, and has a lot stronger arm then Riley Nelson. Hill also doesn't play the game with the reckless abandon that Nelson did. There are a lot of mixed feelings from the fans about Hill because of the struggles in the passing game. However, I would say most would agree he has a lot more upside than Nelson did.
FTRS: Bronco Mendenhall is in his 9th season as BYU head coach, and has taken his team to a bowl game in each of his first 8 years. What is it that he does so well to have the program in the state that it's in? Is there any chance he goes elsewhere with the openings becoming available?
VTF: The two things I's say has led Mendenhall to his success at BYU are that first he is one of the best defensive minds in the country and in the years during his head coaching tenure that he has also taken on the defensive coordinator responsibilities the Cougars have had one of the top defenses in the nation. The second thing he has done is emphasized the school's religious standards in recruiting making it clear that any player the comes to BYU is required to live those standards. Obviously there have still been players that have made mistakes and had to face disciplinary action, but Mendenhall has avoided having the major issues the program had to deal with during the Gary Crowton era.
As for "if he'll ever leave".... you'll see on the back of BYU's jerseys this week the words Honor, Spirit, and Tradition instead of players names. Those are the 3 core values of Bronco's football program, and when he says spirit he doesn't mean gusto or enthusiasm, he means spiritual strength, as in church and stuff. Bronco's priorities for his team are (in order) spiritual development, academic achievement, character advancement, service, and football (aka winning). Most colleges would say they put football after academics and character, but Bronco doesn't just say that, he lives it. For me it seems like Bronco would not really fit anywhere else, and I think he knows that. I think he'll stay at BYU for as long as he can.
FTRS: RB Jamaal Williams suffered a really nasty injury against Utah. What's his status? Will he play? If not, who replaces him?
VTF: Jamaal saw limited carries last week vs Utah State and is expected to get a majority of the carries this week. In his absence freshman Algernon Brown has emerged as a solid option for the Cougars and is expected to have some carries as well.
FTRS: BYU is assumed to be a physically imposing team due to a benefit from post-missionary players, who are 23 and 24 years old when other guys are still developing at 19 and 20. I, for one, feel like that's probably a nice urban legend of sorts that a lot of people just perpetuate. How much does the whole "post-missionary" situation play into things, and how much does CBM just recruit some big ole' boys up front?
VTF: That's a very good question. One of our long-form authors, Austin, recently wrote about just that. He presented an interesting read in his article The Mission Effect: Strength or Weakness, and I'd direct you to read that.
For me though, I'd lean more toward "urban legend" myself as well. It's important to keep in mind that players that serve missions chose to take a two-year break from football where they have very little time to even workout. One of the most difficult challenges for a player returning from a mission is getting their body back into playing shape. For some that can take months and some never get back to where they were pre-mission.
FTRS: Every team has a chink in the armor. What's BYU's? If Tech is to win, how will they do it?
VTF: For Georgia Tech to win they need to take advantage of BYU's struggling offensive line. The offensive line has struggled with injuries to key players and poor play all season. In fact, the Cougars have had a different group of starters on the o-line in every game so far this season. The o-line struggles have led to Taysom Hill having to make a lot of passes from outside the pocket and the difficulties BYU has hade inside the red zone.
FTRS: What's the tailgating atmosphere like in Provo? Lots of Diet Coke and playing catch, as compared to whiskey drinks and beer pong? Or is it more typical than I'd expect?
VTF: Until recently there wasn't much of a tailgate scene at BYU at all. Recently a small group of fans that has tried to bring some of the tailgating experience to Provo. However, alcohol is not permitted on BYU campus so it's definitely a different atmosphere than you would see at the typical college campus.
FTRS: Game prediction?
VTF: In my opinion, Bronco Mendenhall is the best coach in the country at preparing a defense for a triple option attack. I don't expect BYU will have any more problems with the Georgia Tech offense than they did last season. I'm taking the Cougars 24-13.
Thanks again to Chris Taney and his staff over at Vanquish the Foe for their insights before this weekend's game! Go check them out for more about Georgia Tech's trip to Provo, and follow them on Twitter!