By Adam Mangum
You can check out last week’s 9 Questions preview for Ole Miss. I’ve included some of the same questions for continuity’s sake, and also because I’m lazy.
1. Will Doman’s offense build on last week or remain mediocre?
Against what could be a pretty lousy defense with slow linebackers, BYU managed only 316 total yards. What really worries me are the 2.9 yards per rush*, and the 5.9 yards per pass attempt. Both are pretty anemic numbers (BYU was 106th in the nation in YPA a year ago at 6.0). This needs to improve, or this season could be defined by low-scoring games and frustrated fans.
* If you take out the two negative plays not by the RBs, the three RBs (and Riley Nelson) combined for a 111 yards on 27 carries (almost 4 yards a pop). Not great, but not as bad as the team stats would suggest.
2. Can Ross Apo and Cody Hoffman live up to the hype?
Last week I said one game was unlikely to stop the hype. Hoffman was a non-factor (statistically) with one catch for nine yards. Apo was targeted often, and finished at 4-46 with a TD. Again, one game does not a career (or season) make, but I thought Apo looked good, and that triple move he gave on the TD catch was a thing of beauty. I think Apo will be the team’s leading receiver this season, which is not something I believed a week ago.
3. Can Jake Heaps improve on a mediocre performance in week 1?
I’ve seen some apologists say Heaps played well. Not trying to come down on the guy, but he missed open receivers and seemed a little nervous after getting hit a time or two. I attribute this one to running a new offense and playing in a hostile environment, but things are only going to get hotter in Texas. The Longhorns have what should be a good defense, and I think it’s likely they come after Heaps. How he responds to the pressure may determine Saturday’s outcome.
4. Are any of the tight ends difference makers?
Austin Holt and Richard Wilson both caught two balls. I think the TEs will be good but unspectacular in 2011; the playmakers are at the WR and RB positions.
5. Where for art thou, JJ DiLuigi?
DiLuigi hardly had a bad game: he had 17 touches for 88 yards. But he seemed a little tentative as a runner, and though he caught five passes, it was dump-off type of stuff, not creative usage by Doman. I expect big things from the little guy on Saturday.
6. How good is Texas?
I covered this earlier this week, so I won’t get too repetitive here. Quick take: Yes, I think they’re a top 20 team.
7. Is the Cougar defense for real, or do they just dominate bad offenses?
After a 1-4 start to the 2010 season (including giving up 31 points to Utah State), Bronco Mendenhall fired defensive coordinator Jaime Hill, and Mendenhall has been calling the shots since. Before the change, BYU’s opponents averaged 433 yards per game, a stunning number. After the change: 265. The Cougars played only three good opponents* in their remaining 8 games (TCU, Utah, SDSU) and they gave up 31 points and almost 400 yards to the Horned Frogs. I love the speed of the defense and Bronco’s aggressive play calling. Are they for real? I think so, but they still need to prove it against good offenses.*
* Not entirely sure the Longhorns are a good offense. 500 yards against Rice? As Han Solo said, “Look, good against remotes is one thing. Good against the living? That’s something else.”
8. How good are the Cougars?
The jury is, of course, still out. With Texas, Utah and UCF lined up on the road ahead, I think we’ll have a pretty good answer 3-4 weeks from now. My answer today: they’re a top 30 team with a stellar defense and an average offense. I hope I’m wrong about the offense, and I hope I’m right about the defense.
Prediction: 24-14 Texas. I think the Longhorns D will be too much, and costly turnovers will put the Cougars in too much of a hole.
For more on this week’s big game, check out Matt’s More or Less column about what he wants to see more or less of this week against the Longhorns, and of course download and listen to this week’s podcast with former BYU DB and current KSL sideline man Scott Johnson.