BYU Cougars vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Complete Game Preview
With Brigham Young recovering from a tough loss to Utah last weekend, the Cougars have little time to prepare for their college football clash with Middle Tennessee on Friday night.
The Blue Raiders, on the other hand, are coming off of back-to-back wins and have plenty of momentum to carry them to Provo, Utah.
The Cougars' offense didn't find the end zone against the Utes until the fourth quarter last week. It will need to make adjustments to prevent the same fate this Friday. Playing on national television and in front of its usual frenetic home crowd, BYU has the opportunity to pull out a big win.
Here is a look at how this week's Middle Tennessee-BYU showdown stacks up.
BYU's Keys to Victory
Run More of the Offense through Cody Hoffman: At this point of the season, BYU's most reliable receiver has been Cody Hoffman. The 6'4" wideout caught eight passes for 108 yards against Utah. While there has been a flurry of dropped balls by Cougars receivers, he has caught most of the passes thrown to him.
Give Adam Hine More Carries: It is still unclear whether Jamaal Williams will play on Friday night after a concussion and severe stinger. If he doesn't, there are plenty of backs ready to take his place, but Adam Hine is the right guy for the role, Hine has shown his immense athleticism and speed on kickoffs, averaging 25.3 yards per return, a number that would be higher if it weren't for BYU penalties.
Prevent Big Passing Plays: BYU's secondary gave up way too many long passes last week. In order to secure a win on Friday, it can't let that happen again. The Cougars' defense needs to play a tighter zone and prevent huge plays.
Middle Tennessee's Keys to Victory
Protect Logan Kilgore: BYU's outside linebacker duo of Kyle Van Noy and Alani Fua has terrorized quarterbacks this season, so Middle Tennessee will need to protect quarterback Logan Kilgore. The Blue Raiders have already given up nine sacks through four games, but will need to give Kilgore plenty of protection.
Keep the Turnover Margin Low: Against North Carolina, the best team that Middle Tennessee has played this year, the Blue Raiders committed four turnovers. They will need to hold on to the ball more against BYU's strong defense.
Take Advantage of Red Zone Miscues: BYU's offense did not execute well in the red zone last week, and that is something Middle Tennessee will have to take advantage of on the road. The Blue Raiders have allowed opponents to score 78 percent of the time in the red zone.
Cougars Players to Watch
Taysom Hill (QB)
After tearing apart Texas' defense, Hill struggled to consistently lead BYU's offense against Utah. If he can figure out his passing while running the ball successfully, the Cougars' offense will look much better.
Michael Alisa (RB)
Since it is unlikely that Jamaal Williams will play on Friday, a lot of the rushing load will fall on Michael Alisa. The senior back led BYU's ground attack before getting injured last season. He will have another shot this weekend.
Cody Hoffman (WR)
Hoffman is the best receiver in BYU's arsenal and Hill needs to get the ball to him more often. If Hoffman can develop a larger role in the offense, it will be a boost for both him and BYU.
Tyler Beck (LB)
Tyler Beck gained a starting role against Utah after Spencer Hadley was suspended, and Beck took the opportunity seriously, as the middle linebacker exploded for 10 tackles. If he can do the same this week, he will surely remain the starter until Hadley returns.
Blue Raiders Players to Watch
Jordan Parker (RB)
Middle Tennessee's Parker is eighth in the country in rushing yards, and will be a good challenge for the BYU defense. With 485 yards and four touchdowns this season, he is a serious backfield threat.
Logan Kilgore (QB)
Kilgore has completed over 60 percent of his passes, but has struggled with turnovers, as the gunslinger has thrown an interception in his last three games, including a trio of picks against UNC. If BYU stops Parker and the rushing game, they will rely on Kilgore to make big plays.
T.T. Barber (LB)
The heart of the Blue Raiders' linebacking corps, Barber has 44 tackles this season to rankl 12th in the country. If he can be a ball-magnet like he has been in the first four games, BYU will have a tough time in moving the ball.
What They Are Saying
Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill, via the Deseret News:
This is your next game, so it's the most important game right now. It's a great opportunity. We're going to go there four-touchdown underdogs. Nobody thinks we can win it but us. I think recruits recognize what kind of program we have established right now. We're going to get a lot of publicity because nobody thinks we can go to BYU and win. Nobody thought we could go to Georgia Tech and win. Nobody thought we would go to North Carolina and win except us. That's how we approach it. I think we've established this program now that we're past the 'wow' factor.
BYU running back Adam Hine, via KSL.com:
They look like a tough team. They look like they're going to give us a good run for the money, but if we go out there and do what we need to do, we're going to have a lot of fun.
BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae. via KSL.com:
They appear to be a smaller school on paper, but they have really good team speed and are very capable. On defense, they do a lot of different things, so our guys have had to prepare for a bunch of different looks; man, zone coverage, and different fronts as well.
Middle Tennessee is a good team, but BYU will be too much for the visitors. The Cougars' defense will have a good time with the Blue Raiders' offense in what will be a lopsided win for BYU.
BYU will get pressure on Middle Tennessee quarterback Logan Kilgore and force him to turn over the ball. In the end, the Cougars will come out with a victory.
Prediction: BYU 38, Middle Tennessee 13