It’s been four weeks since BYU football last played a game. Now the drought is over. BYU takes on Washington tonight in the Fight Hunger Bowl at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
This is one of the better bowl matchups during the College Football bowl season. Even the guys over at FBschedules.com agree. The site listed BYU-Washington as one of the five best bowl matchups during the most wonderful time of the year.
What is it going to take for BYU to pull off the upset against Washington?
BYU is currently a 4-point underdog according to the oddsmakers. The last time BYU was an underdog in a bowl game was in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl. In that game BYU crushed a ranked Oregon State squad.
We’ve discussed on the Cougar Center Podcast that this Washington team is very talented. The most talented team BYU has seen in my opinion since the Cougars took on Cal in 2005. That Cal team boasted DeSean Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.
What are the keys to a BYU victory? Here are my five keys.
#1 Offensive Line
BYU’s offensive line needs to give Taysom Hill time. It’s simple. Win the line of scrimmage, and BYU will have a great opportunity to win this football game. If Hill is rushed, BYU will turn into a one-dimensional football team with no passing attack.
The offensive line has received piles of criticsm this season. Head into the off-season with momentum after a dominating performance against a quality team.
#2 Fast Start on Offense
BYU has won four straight bowl games but the last two wins have been because of the stellar defense. The defense is going to have its hands full with Bishop Sankey and Keith Price. Can the Cougar offense maintain consistency and provide Taysom Hill enough time to from the football and run in the open field? BYU must get off to a fast start in the 1st quarter. If they don’t it will be a long night for the Cougars in the Bay Area.
Look at the games BYU has won this season. In all the games, with maybe the lone exception being Middle Tennessee, BYU’s offense got off to fast starts and imposed their style of play early.
#3 Don’t Give up the Big Play
Think of the Houston game from earlier in the year. BYU was dominating the Cougars clad in red, but you look up at the scoreboard and BYU was down 21-14. They were down because of a kick return, a deep pass, and a pick six. What I’m saying here is make Washington earn everything they get. If Washington moves the ball 75 yards and scores every drive, so be it. But to give up pick six’s and special teams touchdowns, those are the backbreakers that turn a game in an even matchup.
The secondary will be tested by Keith Price. Robertson Daniel and Mike Hague get the start at cornerback. The Cougars get a huge break not having to face Kasen Williams who broke his leg back in October, but the Huskies have a seasoned crop of receivers. Including NFL prospect, Austin Seferain-Jenkins.
#4 Capitalize in the Blue Zone
BYU must score touchdowns inside the 20. They can’t settle on Justin Sorensen to win this ball game. Lets see some creative play calling down in that area as well. Every time down inside the 20, BYU’s playcalling is predictable. It’s the last game of the season, let it all loose.
#5 Production From Unlikely Sources
In games where you’re the underdog, you need production from guys you weren’t expecting to contribute to have a significant impact on the ball game. Case in point last season’s Poinsettia Bowl, punter Riley Stephenson single-handidly won BYU the game with his coffin corner punts. Who will it be in this year’s bowl game to extend BYU’s school-record bowl winning streak?
I’m going to say the receivers/tight ends have a solid game. Against Nevada, no one could create seperation. Washington will likely underestimate BYU’s receiving corps not named Cody Hoffman. If guys like Ridley, Falslev, and Friel can move the chains and extend drives with crucial grabs, will be huge towards getting a win.
Final score: BYU 23, Washington 20