Spiff’s Spots – Utah State Preview
Scotten H. Whaley
Loyal. Strong. True.
OREM, UTAH – It is rivalry week! And with the Holy War still in the midst of its two-year hiatus, the Utah State Aggies will have to satiate BYU Cougar fans’ need for a hated opponent.
On what should be a crisp, Saturday afternoon, the newly named Maverik Stadium will see the Aggies and Cougars square off on Merlin Olsen Field for the “Old Wagon Wheel.” Utah State is currently in possession the Wagon Wheel, after beating BYU 35-20 last year on the night Jim McMahon had his jersey retired and Tasyom Hill broke his ankle.
And while Hill will miss this game with a broken foot, there should be plenty of Cougars with revenge on their minds with plenty to play for. With a loss, this class of seniors would be the first class at BYU since 1976 to have a non-winning record against the Aggies. The seniors will also need a victory to avoid becoming the first senior class since the 2005 class to not win double digit games in a season in their career.
Look for Mitch Mathews to continue his strong career against the Aggies. In two career games, he has 13 catches for 229 yards and four touchdowns on 19 targets. The senior wide receiver has been the favorite target of freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum, with nearly 80 targets in Mangum’s ten starts.
Fellow senior wide receiver Devon Blackmon is next in Mangum targets with 61. One storyline to follow is the elusive touchdown catch for Blackmon. While, he likely will not catch former running back Lakei Heimuli in most catches without a touchdown, Blackmon is currently the all-time leader in receiving yards without a reception in the end zone.
If BYU wants to win in Logan, getting Mathews and Blackmon the ball frequently might be a sound strategy. On the year the two have combined for 85 catches for 1,108 yards and nine touchdowns. And both players have not played well the last two games, so they could be “due.”
Defensively, Aggies’ head coach Matt Wells has been quite coy about whom the starting quarterback will be. Kent Meyers had started the last seven games before injuring his shoulder and giving way to Chuckie Keeton. Keeton began the season as the starter, but 2015 was the fourth season he has missed at least four games due to injury. And Keeton has struggled mightily in his games against BYU.
Keeton did not play last year. He was 4-10 for just 26 yards and one touchdown and one interception in 2013 (in a 31-14 BYU win in Logan). In 2012, he was 22 of 38 for 202 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions (in a 6-3 BYU win in Provo). And in 2011, he was 13 of 25 for 122 yards and two touchdowns (in a 27-24 BYU win in Provo).
The play of both quarterbacks will be the key matchups to watch.
This Week’s Bold Prediction: Tanner Mangum will have his first 300-yard passing game on the road. He will also have his first multiple-touchdown pass game of the month.
Pre-season Matchup to Watch: BYU offense vs Utah State defense. Despite all the talk above about Chuckie Keeton, Utah State is quite stout on defense. They finished #12 in 2014 and #7 in 2013 in scoring defense. It’s tough to win games when your opponent’s defense simply doesn’t yield many points.
Updated Matchup to Watch: This game is still going to come down to how well the BYU offense can move the ball. If Mangum is stymied in the passing game, and the Cougars’ current struggles in the rushing attack continue, then BYU will find themselves having to grind out a slog-fest victory. In a close game, the advantage usually goes to the home team. BYU is 3-2 in games decided by seven or fewer points; Utah State is 1-3.
Pre-season Prediction: BYU 17 Utah State 12
Updated Prediction: BYU 17 Utah State 13
Spiff’s Season Prediction Tracker: 9-2 (Correct Picks: BYU over Nebraska, Boise St, UConn, East Carolina, Cincinnati, Wagner, San Jose St & Fresno St; UCLA over BYU) (Incorrect Picks: BYU over Michigan & Missouri)
- BYU is 46-35-3 (.548) all-time against the Aggies. While BYU won 20 of 21 (.952) games between 1983 and 2009, they have won just three of the last five. But the Cougars last win did come in Logan in 2013.
- The Aggies have worn a blue helmet (seven times) and a white helmet (four times) in 2015. Under Bronco, BYU is 9-9 (.500) against blue-helmeted teams and 23-7 (.767) vs white-helmeted teams.
- Through 11 games, Utah State is ranked 60th in scoring offense, 72nd in rushing offense, 72nd in passing efficiency and 97th in total offense. They are ranked 21st in total defense, 39th in passing efficiency defense, 54th in scoring defense and 56th in rushing defense.
- Through 11 games, BYU is ranked 42nd in total offense, 44th in passing efficiency, 48th in scoring offense, and 102nd in rushing offense. They are ranked 27th in passing efficiency defense, 32nd in total defense, 36th in rushing defense and 48th in scoring defense. There are 127 FBS schools.
- Bronco has a 7-3 (.700) record in the 12th game of the season. The Cougars have won the last four regular season finales. This is the sixth straight finale that will be on the road. In fact, Bronco has only coached two game 12s at home (2007 & 2009).
- BYU has only scored fewer than 31 points one time in their last eight trips to Logan. And the Cougars are 6-2 (.750) over that span.
- Bronco owns a 6-2 (.750) record against the Aggies. In the two losses, BYU has lost the turnover battle.
- Since 2005, the team with the better PER in the game has won every game.
- BYU is a three-point favorite. After covering the spread in the first two road games, the Cougars have not covered in the last three games away from Provo.
- Utah State was a determined to be a middle of the pack game in terms of difficulty. It finished 6th in pre-season difficulty rankings at CougarCorner.com.
Utah State Aggies
Saturday November 28, 2015
1:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Maverik Stadium (22,059)
Devon Blackmon Watch
Devon Blackmon Watch. He currently has 42 catches for 537 yards and 0 touchdowns. The BYU records for most catches and yards without a touchdown reception are owned by former running back, Lakei Heimuli. In 1985, Heimuli had 66 catches for 459 yards and 0 touchdown. If the season were to end today, Blackmon would set the dubious record of most receiving yards without a touchdown. However, he likely will not catch Heimuli in receptions.