1. How tough an environment is Reser Stadium in Corvallis? Will the crowd be a major factor?
Reser stadium seats less than 46,000, but if you talk with Oregon fans, it feels like a lot more during the Civil War games in Corvallis against the Ducks. According the Bleacher Reports top 50 college football stadiums, Reser did not make the cut (LaVell Edwards Stadium was No. 39). Of course, War Memorial Stadium at Wyoming was ranked, so not sure you can trust that. Remind me to tell you the story sometime of when I was almost killed there.
Imagine if BYU was 1-4 and had lost to an FCS opponent at home to start the season. How excited would the Cougar crowd be about a borderline top-50 team coming into town? Probably not very. I think Beaver fans are beaten down, and one win against a lousy Arizona team probably hasn’t brought them back to full power. The Cougars have a great opportunity to take the crowd out of the game early.
2. Do the Oregon State offensive strengths match-up too well with the BYU weaknesses?
I’ve read several previews that wonder if the Oregon State passing game (ranked 30th in the country in yards per game) is a bad match-up for a BYU secondary that has been vulnerable .
It’s a good question, but I don’t think the Beaver passing game is that good. Led by freshman Sean Mannion, they have only one 300+ yard game this season, and that was in a losing effort against Arizona State when they chucked the ball 66 times. I think if OSU throws the ball 60+ times against BYU, that would be a terrific sign.
Yes the passing game is their strength, and expect a decent day for them in that department, but call me skeptical of a unit that put up 230 yards against Sacramento State and is averaging just 6.1 YPA.
3. Does Riley Nelson continue his successful run? Or does Jake Heaps re-emerge?
Don and I talked a lot about this on the podcast; Nelson became the QB at the optimal time during a weak portion of the BYU schedule. Heaps played against likely 3 of the best 4 opponents the Cougars will face all year, and now Nelson gets his shot in cupcake alley.
And while that context is important, the stats so overwhelmingly favor Nelson that I’m not sure why anyone would be asking for Heaps’ return. Heaps has been almost as turnover prone, less accurate, and less efficient. With usually tons of time in the pocket, he can’t make the right decision.
Of course, if Nelson puts up a 5-for-12, 67 yards passing, 2 turnover first half, I think Bronco Mendenhall and Brandon Doman will be tempted to turn back to the former prospect. Personally, I would give James Lark a shot, but I believe if Nelson stumbles, Heaps will get the opportunity to prove his detractors wrong.
4. Is Michael Alisa for real?
Alisa was an afterthought coming out of Timpview High in 2008, a two-star filler, a special teams player.
That perception, at least for me, lasted until last week. With seasoned RBs in Josh Quezada, JJ DiLuigi and Bryan Kariya, who cared about Alisa? He entered the San Jose State game with 3 carries for 2 yards.
Now he is the RB with the highest YPC number, and he was great against the Spartans. He hit the holes violently, something that Cougar backs have failed to do this season, with the possible exception of Kariya in the 4th quarter against Utah State.
I have no idea if Alisa is for real or not, or if we just saw his career game. But I hope he gets 12-15 touches against the Beavers so we can find out if he’s really the remedy to BYU’s anemic rushing attack.
5. Can the Cougars put together 4 solid quarters? Please?
BYU has been disjointed this season, especially on offense. And the defense has also had major lapses that have cost the Cougars. Can they put together a complete game and easily win a game they should, on paper, easily win?
Unfortunately I don’t think the Cougars destroy the Beavers like they’re capable of doing. Nelson will lead the offense to 400+ yards again, but will make some major mistakes. And the defense will be solid, but give up a couple big plays. Still, the Cougars will be one win away from bowl eligibility come Saturday night.
Prediction: 24-20, BYU.