Spiff’s Spots – Utah Preview

Scotten H. Whaley
Staff Writer
Loyal. Strong. True.

OREM, UTAH – A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

 

Episode XC

The Holy War

It is a period of unrest.  The BYU football program is seemingly in disarray. The head coach is leaving for bluer pastures in a faraway conference.

BYU fans are wondering if a new head coach will emerge from a hidden base. While players are trying to split their time between studying for finals and preparing for a heated rivalry game.

In the midst of this uncertainty, the game must be played. Excuses will not be tolerated and BYU’s football program and fans are hoping to earn their first victory in more than half a decade.

 

Several years ago, these two hated rivals (BYU and Utah) decided to take a break from their forays on the grid-iron. But it seems a Dark Lord of the Sith has been scheming and employing devious machinations behind the scenes to bring these two teams together again.

 

The lure of an enticing matchup between two teams and fan bases that have no lack of animosity was simply too tempting for the powers that control the Galactic College Football Empire (a.k.a. ESPN) to resist.

 

The Holy War will be reborn – this time in the desert world of Sin City – Las Vegas, Nev.

 

The forces of the Jedi’s offense (BYU) will be led by a young, freshly-minted knight in freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum. But he is not without experienced Jedi Masters at his side. Senior receivers Mitch Mathews, Devon Blackmon, Terenn Houk and Remington Peck will look to be mindful of the living Force as they strive to get off the inevitable physical man-press coverage the Utes will surely employ.

 

Defensively the Cougars will look to the wizened experience of Bronson  Kaufusi, Micha  Wadsworth and Manoa Pikula who, like Cougar Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall, will take the field for the final time for BYU.

 

Meanwhile the oppressive forces of the Sith are not without experience as well. Utah senior quarterback Travis Wilson has appeared in nearly four times as many games as Mangum. Senior defensive tackle Seni Fauonuku tied a school record with four sacks in one game this year. And senior linebacker Gionni Paul was a first-team all-PAC 12 selection.

 

Senior Utah punter Tom Hackett was also first-team all-PAC 12 in addition to winning his second straight Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter.

 

But the Utes will be without the services of senior running back Devontae Booker. He missed the final two games of the season with a knee injury that even a bacta tank could not heal in time for the bowl game. The Utah offense will certainly miss his more than 1,800 yards of total offense and 12 touchdowns.

 

The sellout crowd should be in for an exciting matchup, one in which there could not only be fireworks on the field but potentially in the crowd amongst fans as well. Despite the hiatus, there is no love lost between players or fans.

 

Like the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is set to shatter opening weekend gross records, the BYU-Utah Las Vegas bowl promises to entertain all who attend or view the proceedings.

 

This Week’s Bold Prediction: BYU has turned the ball over 14 times in the last four games against the Utes and 20 times in the last six matchups. This time it is BYU that will protect the football. BYU will finish plus-three (+3) in the turnover battle. In fact, BYU will seal the victory with an interception.

 

Pre-season Matchup to Watch: Cal quarterback vs BYU pass rush. While the Cougars only tallied one sack against Cal last in their 42-35 win, Jared Goff was routinely picking himself up off the ground. He stood tall and strong in delivering 38 completions for 393 yards and four touchdowns.

 

Updated Matchup to Watch: This game will come down to quarterback play. While the teams’ quarterbacks are never on the field at the same time, it is their play that will determine this game. BYU is 8-1 (.889) when the quarterback hits the Passing Efficiency Rating (PER) standard of 135. So who will have the better game? BYU freshman Tanner Mangum in his 12th career start or Utah senior Travis Wilson playing in his 46th career game.

 

Pre-season Prediction: BYU 38 Cal 24

Updated Prediction: BYU 31 Utah 14

Spiff’s Season Prediction Tracker: 11-2 (Correct Picks: BYU over Nebraska, Boise St, UConn, East Carolina, Cincinnati, Wagner, San Jose St, Fresno St & Utah State; UCLA over BYU) (Incorrect Picks: BYU over Michigan & Missouri)

Statistical Nonsense:

  • BYU is 31-54-4 (.348) all-time against the Utes. While BYU won 19 of 21 (.905) games between 1972 and 1992, they have won just seven of the 21 games since 1993. BYU is 3-6 (.333) versus Utah under head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
  • This will be the teams’ first non-regular season meeting.
  • This will be the final game for Bronco who is leave BYU for Virginia. Bronco will become the fourth consecutive BYU coach to have Utah be their final opponent. Gary Crowton lost to Utah 52-21 in this final game in 2004. The legendary Lavell Edwards won 34-27 in 2000. And Tommy Hudspeth lost his finale to Utah 17-15 in 1971.
  • The Utes have worn a red helmet (four times), a black helmet (three times) and a white helmet (five time) in 2015. Under Bronco, BYU is 11-7 (.611) against red-helmeted teams, 6-1 (.857) vs black-helmeted teams and 23-7 (.767) against white-helmeted teams.
  • Through 12 games, Utah is ranked 58th in scoring offense, 43rd in rushing offense, 69th in passing efficiency and 86th in total offense. They are ranked 41st in total defense, 40th in passing efficiency defense, 31st in scoring defense and 6th in rushing defense.
  • Through 12 games, BYU is ranked 35th in scoring offense, 37th in passing efficiency, 44th in total offense and 107th in rushing offense. They are ranked 23rd in passing efficiency defense, 31st in scoring defense, 36th in total defense and 42nd in rushing defense. There are 127 FBS schools.
  • Bronco has a 6-4 (.600) record in bowl games. The Cougars have lost their last bowl appearances. This will be the sixth Las Vegas Bowl, but first since 2009, under Bronco; the record is 3-2 (.600) in the previous five.
  • The average score in BYU’s Las Vegas Bowl victories was 33-14.7. In losses it was 24.5-33
  • Bronco owns a 6-2 (.750) record against the Aggies. In the two losses, BYU has lost the turnover battle.
  • BYU is currently a two-and-a-half point underdog. The Cougars were 3-1 (.750) against the spread in 2015, winning two of them. BYU has failed to cover in their last three neutral site game. Under Bronco, the Cougars are 5-5 (.500) in neutral site games – losing four of the last five.

 

Game Information

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

Utah Utes

Saturday December 19, 2015

1:30 p.m., ABC

Sam Boyd Stadium (38,500)

Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Devon Blackmon Watch

Devon Blackmon Watch. He currently has 43 catches for 572 yards and 0 touchdowns. The BYU record for most catches without a touchdown reception is owned by former running back, Lakei Heimuli. In 1985, Heimuli had 66 catches for 459 yards and 0 touchdowns. However, without a record-setting reception performance in the bowl game, Blackmon would only set the dubious record of most receiving yards without a touchdown.

Player Year Catches Yards TDs
Lakei Heimuli 1985 66 459 0
Devon Blackmon 2015 43 572 0
Robert Parker 1986 37 370 0
Nathan Meikle 2005 36 292 0
Chris Hale 2003 33 286 0

 

Follow me on Twitter @SpiffCoug or find me at www.LoyalStrongTrue.com or www.CougarCorner.com.

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