The Beehive Battle

Campus Clash

(14) Utah Utes at BYU Cougars

Utah: When you look at the Pac-12 South, it’s everyone else then it’s the Utah Utes. There’s nobody else that stands out to me. Arizona State is headed in the right direction with Herm Edwards, USC is a big question mark, Colorado is inconsistent, UCLA is looking to get headed in the right direction under Chip Kelly and you just don’t know with the Arizona Wildcats. The Utes are a lock to win this division once again. They were 9-3 under Kyle Whittingham, played in the Pac-12 conference title game where they fell short to the Washington Huskies and played in a bowl game and fell short to the Wildcats of Northwestern. I’m expecting big things from this offense this year. Dynamic quarterback Tyler Huntley is back under center to lead the offense and the receiving core returns a total of seven guys that caught at least 15 passes from a year ago. The biggest return will be running back Zack Moss. He’s back after dealing with a knee injury in 2018. When I watch him run, I see a little bit of LeSean McCoy but more physical with the ability to cut, break loose and get away from would-be tacklers. He’s a big part of what they do offensively because Utah loves to run the football. They’ve been one of the best in the conference when it comes to running the ball and with Zack healthy, expect that trend to continue. The Utes also play good defense. After giving up 19 points per contest to the opponents in ’18, they’re looking to continue that consistency. Although they’re going to be without four of their top tacklers from last season, I don’t see them missing a beat. Tonight, it’s an in-state showdown to begin the new season!

BYU: They have a ton of talent that you may not know about. Putting it altogether and remaining consistent has been the issue. Quarterback Zach Wilson came into his own in his sophomore season and the team finally has its star to build around. The Cougars offense came around with a few big performances at the end of last season, but they hit a couple of bumps in the road which led to me calling them inconsistent. What’s insane is Wilson has some nice targets to get the ball too. It all starts with tight end, Matt Bushman. He finished last season with just 29 receptions which is absurd because he’s way too talented not to get the ball more in his hands. Talented wide receivers Aleva Hifo and Gunner Romney also return which should hopefully help a pass offense that averaged 212 yards per game a season ago. The running game should also help their offense with the legs of Lopini Katoa who averages close to five yards per carry. The offensive line will return four starters which is crucial because having a unit together with experience can make all the difference. The Cougars defense will enter a year looking to get better after their defense ranked 18th in the nation in total defense despite a lackluster pass rush. However, the secondary play was top notch and the run defense also did their part to help. There’s more than enough talent coming back to keep it rolling. Tonight, a new year begins with a rival in town.

Utah Player To Watch: Viane Moala– The big man in the middle! The Hawaii transfer is 6’6, 315 pounds. Good luck to anyone trying to move this man around. Big guys like him are known to stop the run and clog those open lanes in the middle. This will take the pressure off superb pass rusher Bradlee Anae on the edge.

BYU Player To Watch: Isaiah Kaufusi– The junior linebacker is back to lead this defense. This linebacking core has a ton of potential, especially on the outside. At 6’2, he has tremendous speed off the edge to get to the quarterback. He can also drop back and cover with very fluid feet and the hands of a cornerback.

Final Analysis: This is a good way to start off your season. A good old-fashioned rivalry game! I like facing a rival right at the start of a new season because when the schedules come out, coach will preach about beating your rivals to set the tone and that’s exactly what this game will be, a tone-setter. The Utes offensive line will be key in this game and possibly the entire season. They’re okay at best. Not great, just average. Utah’s passing offense must spread the football around to keep this Cougars secondary on its toes. BYU can play defense as well. Yes, they did beat Utah last year, but that was without Huntley and Moss. Have two key players does indeed make the difference. Wilson needs to be on his a-game tonight. If he takes care of the ball and he’s on the same page as his receivers, the Cougars offense will move downfield.

Prediction: Utah 28 BYU 23