After last week’s matchup against SUU, a lot of questions are still in the air for Utah. Though the Utes were able to get the job done in a shutout, the lingering question is how will they stack up this week at home, against BYU, in a rivalry game? Based off of what we saw from both teams, here are three keys to beating the team down south:
1. Early Turnovers
The key to Utah’s winning streak in Holy War’s past is the ability to not only force significant turnovers but to create them early in the game. During the last meeting in the Las Vegas Bowl between the Utes and Cougars it was the five turnovers in the first quarter that allowed Utah to maintain the lead in what would be a mediocre three quarters to follow. The last time that Utah lost the turnover battle resulted in the 2009 loss at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Much like Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham who has said that turnovers are one of the most important statistics in the game, new BYU head coach Kalani Sitake feels the same. As is evident in the Cougars first match up against Arizona, BYU will focus on turnovers and an aggressive defense with Sitake at the helm.
2. Offensive Line Improvement
If grades were given after the SUU game, the offensive line would definitely be at the bottom of the class. While the Utes were constantly transitioning players on the line, perhaps to find the right match up, there were only a handful of combinations that seemed to work during game one. At center, J.J. Dielman struggled to find a groove in his new position but the Utes are confident he will improve his snaps. Let’s just hope it was first game jitters because the offensive line has to show improvement from last week. Without progression, the Utes will struggle to establish an offense against the newly implemented Sitake defense we saw last week against fellow PAC-12 member, Arizona.
3. Williams2 or Troy2
It is no secret that the Troy Williams/Troy McCormick combination was the better package deal against SUU last week. Troy McCormick led the team with 12 carries and ran for 55 yards and a total of 110 all-purpose yards. While he is much smaller than the other running options for the Utes he held better control of the football than Utah’s other running backs. While not all bleak for Joe Williams, the aggressive play we saw in the Las Vegas Bowl seemed to be at a halt and he had trouble holding onto the ball providing the Utes only turnover after a fumble. In either grouping, Williams/Williams or Troy/Troy, Utah needs aggressive running, ability to find the gaps, and protective ball handling in this game.
While there are a few other minor kinks to workout for the Utes, overall the remaining positions just need to keep on doing what worked well last week and continue to progress.
Will it be another Utah victory? Or will BYU finally avenge a five-year streak? Either way it is sure to be another wild ride on the Holy War rollercoaster and possibly come down to the final minutes of the game as is common for the Utes and Cougars.