Washington State Cougars at BYU Cougars – LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
10:15 pm EST – ESPN
In the most anticipated coaching return of the 2012 NCAA Football season, Mike Leach is back on the sidelines as his Washington State Cougars travel to Provo to take on the Independent BYU Cougars.
WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel is expected to put up big numbers this season, but will have to get past a BYU defense that was ranked 14th in the nation in total defense (312.9 ypg) and 22nd in scoring, holding opponents to 20.4 points per game in 2011. Luckily for Tuel and Leach, the senior QB will have the preseason All-Pac-12 receiver Marquess Wilson to throw to. Last season, Wilson was second in the conference in both receiving yards (1388) and touchdowns (12) and third in the Pac-12 in receptions (82).
As potent as the Washington State offensive attack is expected to be, the offensive line has to do a better job protecting Tuel and allowing him time to find Wilson. The Cougar’s O-Line gave up 38 sacks in 2011, 10th most in the FBS, but will face a BYU defensive front that handed out only 13 a year ago.
The biggest question mark heading into tonight’s game is the WSU defense. Last season, the Washington State defense allowed 31.8 points per game (95th) and 409.7 ypg (82nd) and could have their backs against the wall facing a BYU quarterback who shared time last year, but still put up a fair share of yardage.
Jake Heaps is now quarterbacking the Kansas Jayhawks, leaving Riley Nelson as the sole BYU starting signal caller. Nelson completed 57.4% of his passes for 1717 yards and 19 touchdowns to seven interceptions to end the 2011 with a 152.94 QB rating.
If the BYU defense can contain the pass-happy Washington State offense, the home Cougars could have the game wrapped earlier than Leach would like.
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