The Texas Longhorns take a trip to Provo, Utah this weekend to take on the BYU Cougars in Week 2 of the 2013 college football season. Fresh off a 56-7 thrashing of the New Mexico State Aggies in Austin, Texas will face a substantially tougher opponent in BYU who will have a chip on their shoulder after a tough opening week road loss to the Virginia Cavaliers.
In a torrential downpour and thunderstorm which caused the game to be suspended for two hours, the Cougars could never gain the momentum needed and lost largely due to factors out of their control in the sideways rain, including a late blocked punt which turned into the points Virginia needed to seal the contest late.
Ranked No. 43 in our Rant Sports Pre-Season Rankings, the Cougars are a hard-nosed, blue-collar football team that plays in the mold of their hard as nails head coach, Bronco Mendenhall, who has earned the reputation of being one of the bright young stars in the college coaching profession. You can bet that Mendenhall’s team will be more than ready to play on Saturday evening, especially in front of a hostile home crowd that doesn’t have much love lost for the Burnt Orange.
Challenges Presented by the BYU Offense
While BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is one of the more experienced players on the BYU roster, the Cougars’ offense is likely to be predicated on the running of sophomore rising star Jamaal Williams, who ripped off 144 yards on 33 carries against Virginia. For Texas to maintain control of the pace — and escalate to the pace of the 80+ plays they have as a goal — it’ll be important for the defensive tackles and linebackers to get penetration early and make things difficult for Hill to scramble for extra yardage — something of which he is very capable — and also make things difficult for Williams.
The health of Cody Hoffman, BYU’s star wideout who is arguably one of the top senior wide receiving prospects in college football this season, will determine how much of a threat the passing game will be overall. Hoffman missed the Virginia game with a hamstring injury, leaving only former Texas target Ross Apo as an option. If Hoffman is closer to 100% on Saturday, the Texas secondary will have its first test of the season against an NFL caliber receiver, with a second test sure to follow on September 15th as the Ole Miss Rebels come to town with Donte Moncrief in tow.
The Crowd is a Massive Factor
There are few teams with a more intimidating home environment than BYU, illustrated by their 40-5 home record over their last 45 contests against Division I teams. Texas must come out and establish pace on offense — most ideally through a few quick scores — to put the 65,000+ on their heels and give them few reasons to amp up the Cougars. This can also be done through a few early turnovers being forced and keeping the BYU offense off the board in what promises to be much better conditions than they were faced with in Charlottesville.
On the flipside, if the crowd is involved and agitated, Texas could have trouble working through audibles and quick changes at the line of scrimmage, both of which are an important new element of the up-tempo, quick-hit offensive scheme, causing tempo problems across the board.
Pacing, Pacing, Pacing
For BYU to have a chance against Texas they must grind the pace down to a crawl — as will be true of most teams this season. The only way this can happen is three and outs on defense and a heavy dose of Jamaal Williams on offense.
Texas must score early and quickly to make this strategy impossible for Bronco Mendenhall to run with for the Cougars to stay in the game. Another low-scoring, slow-start from Texas could be just what the doctor ordered for the Cougars and be just about their only reliable path to an upset.
In short, Texas must get off to a quicker start on both sides of the ball in Provo to emerge with their second victory of the season and return to Austin for the Week Three matchup with Ole Miss unscathed. A slow start, multiple turnovers or lack of execution could equal a tough early-season loss.
It’s rather simple, really.