Utah State (4-1) at BYU (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, October 5, 10:15 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,725) -- Provo, Utah. Television: ESPN. Home Record: USU 3-0, BYU 3-0. Away Record: USU 1-1, BYU 0-2. Neutral Record: USU 0-0, BYU 0-0. Conference Record: USU 0-0, BYU 0-0. Series Record: BYU leads, 44-34-3.
GAME NOTES: Playing on Friday night for the second straight week, the BYU Cougars are up against yet another foe from the Beehive State as they entertain the Utah State Aggies at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.
BYU, which has played on Saturday just twice in five outings so far in 2012, went with a change of pace last week against Hawaii as it started true freshman Taysom Hill at quarterback, a move that paid off in a big way with a convincing 47-0 triumph. The win snapped a two-game slide by the team, the last setback coming against Boise State by just a single point, 7-6, on the road on Sept. 20.
Possessing one of the top defenses in the country, the shutout for the Cougars was their first since the squad blanked Wyoming, 52-0, in Mountain West Conference action back in 2009.
As for the Aggies, they too are enjoying some early success on the season with four wins in five chances. With the Western Athletic Conference schedule set to kick off against San Jose State on Oct. 13, USU enters this week riding a modest two-game win streak thanks to a 35-13 romp over UNLV at home last weekend.
The Aggies are off to their best start since 1978 when they rattled off five straight victories. USU has now won five consecutive home decisions, the first time that has happened in three decades.
Utah State trails in the all-time series with BYU, 44-34-3, after losing the most recent meeting last season by a score of 27-24 at home. Since 1975 the Aggies have defeated the Cougars just four times, the most recent coming in 2010 with a 31-16 victory at home.
Held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time this season, the Aggies erupted for 20 in the second frame as they ran away from UNLV at home. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who was named the Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, had a sensational game as he converted 21-of-34 passes for 404 yards and four touchdowns, overshadowing his one interception and two sacks.
Kerwynn Williams was again a key factor for the Aggies as he not only caught seven passes for 147 yards and a score, he gained a game-high 113 yards on 20 rushing attempts. USU finished with a hefty 564 yards of total offense as Keeton had one of the top passing performances in school history.
Defensively, the Aggies allowed only 305 yards to the Rebels which worked out to just 4.1 yards per snap. When it comes to slowing down the competition, Utah State is not only the best in the WAC, it is one of the better squads in the entire nation. After five games USU ranks 11th in the country with just 280.8 ypg allowed and is 18th in points permitted (14.2 ppg).
Pacing a squad that has outscored foes by a 51-0 margin in the first frame thus far, Keeton has tossed 11 TD passes and is averaging 256.6 ypg while hitting on 68.4 percent of his attempts. Not only is Williams easily the top running threat (103.8 ppg, three TDs) he is also the leading receiver which is not too common, sporting 18 catches for 262 yards and two TDs.
After being held down by the Broncos a week earlier, the Cougars were eager to get their offense in gear against Hawaii and the Warriors made it rather easy for the hosts in Provo. Hill, who subbed for an ineffective Riley Nelson, completed 12-of-21 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, shaking off a couple of sacks along the way. Hill also ran for 143 yards and a score, the most rushing yards by a BYU quarterback in more than a decade.
If it wasn't Hill doing damage against a depleted Hawaii defense, it was Jamaal Williams and Paul Lasike beating up on the visitors as they combined for 195 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Obviously, without allowing a single point the BYU defense was on point for sure, but Hawaii's offense was held to a mere 149 yards and never even made it into the red zone as all but one of their drives began inside their own 30- yard line.
Like the Aggies, BYU is also sporting one of the top defenses in the nation right now, partly because previous offensive powers like Boise State and Hawaii have had to replace top-quality quarterbacks for this season and so far the results have been not been too favorable. That being said, the Cougars are holding foes to only 63.2 ypg on the ground (second in the nation) and 226.6 ypg of total offense (fifth nationally). Put it all together and the squad's 10.0 ppg allowed is the fourth-best mark in the FBS entering play this week.
Assuming the Cougars intend to stick with Hill at quarterback, a move that would make sense given how much he has delivered already in his first few appearances, this could be a very interesting meeting, but one that the Cougars should still capture.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 24, Utah State 13
10/03 10:39:09 ET