Midweek Meanderings...



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I'm very much looking forward to the early "Game of the Year" in the Mountain West Conference this Saturday at University Stadium in Albuquerque.

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But what about last week's game with undefeated Air Force? The Cadets led the league at 2-0 and had already beaten TCU and Utah--why wouldn't that be a huge game? Because Air Force's offense was not going to be able to keep pace with BYU, and for whatever reason, since the turn of the millenium, the BYU-AFA game is always a blowout. Since 2000, the winner in the game has won by at least 14 points. The 2007 version followed the script, with the Cougars doing their traditional masterful job of keeping the Falcons' offense in check, and pulling away for the win.

So, in terms of teams that could provide a match for BYU and seriously threaten the Cougars' run to a conference crown, New Mexico much better fits the bill.

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Now, a few things to consider. Rocky Long has never beaten BYU in Albuquerque (0-4). He has never beaten Bronco Mendenhall (0-2). BYU is the best conference road team since the inception of the Mountain West Conference (20-9). Under Bronco, BYU is 7-1 on the conference road. BYU is also one win away from the MWC record for consecutive conference wins, with 9 (CSU and Utah share the record with 10--interestingly, the Rams have curently lost 10 straight games overall).

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A Lobos win on Saturday would give UNM its best season-starting record under Rocky Long. The Lobos have never been 4-1 after 5 games under Rocky, and the last time New Mexico was 5-0 was in 1997, under Dennis Franchione.

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Saturday's game is expected to be a sellout, and fans in attendance can only hope things go better than they did for the last sellout--home to New Mexico State a few weeks back. The school sold more tickets than there were seats available, and the ensuing "standing-room only" crush and confusion led to fights, gropings, and the kind of atmosphere that led many fans to say they would never attend another game at University Stadium. UNM promised to get a handle on the situation, and this weekend's game with BYU will give the school a chance to make good on its pledge.

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Rocky Long's 3-3-5 defense regularly puts heat on opposing quarterbacks, but you have to wonder just how liberal New Mexico's statisticians are. The Lobos list 43 quarterback "hurries" by their defenders, compared to 4 for the opponents. BYU has registered 6 "hurries," to 4 for the opposition. I know the 3-3-5 is a pretty aggressive scheme, but methinks the UNM folks are getting a little carried away.

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It is clear that if BYU can just keep teams from gaining significant chunks of yardage on first down, the Cougs are going to be a tough team to beat. Simply put, BYU is putting the clamps on the opposition in 3rd and long situations. Heck, forget 3rd and long, even third and moderate has been tough for the opposition to convert. When facing 3rd and 5 or longer, BYU's opponents are 6/40, for 15%. BYU has not allowed even one 3rd and 9 or longer to be converted (0/17). Amazing.

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Even in BYU's worst defensive outing, the Cougars were stout on 3rd down. Tulsa was 3 for 13 that night, with all of the big plays coming on 1st and 2nd down. It's true that it doesn't matter on which down the yards or points come, but part of BYU's nation's-best "time of possession" advantage is due to the fact opponents have gone 3-and-out 27% of the time, while BYU has gone 3-and-out on only 16% of its possessions. The BYU defense is fresher and the opposing defenses are wearing down. Even in Tulsa, the Hurricane defenders were playing catch-up all night, and it was only BYU's 4 turnovers that kept the Cougars from winning that game.

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This weekend's game pits the best team in the league in "turnover margin" (UNM) against the worst team (BYU). Not only have the Lobos not allowed any points off of giveaways this season, they actually scored two points (on a safety that followed a Lobo fumble at Arizona). So, New Mexico is +38 pts in the turnover category (36 scored off takeaways, plus 2 scored off of UNM turnovers). BYU, by comparison, has allowed 38 points off of 10 giveaways, and has scored 14 points off of 3 takeaways, for -24 pts in that category--a difference of 62 points between the two teams.

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KSL Newsradio's "Bronco Mendenhall Show" is back at Ken Garff Honda of Orem on University Parkway, Wednesday night. Iceberg is going to be on hand to feed all of you, and we will be giving away 5 more copies of the "Tradition, Spirit, Honor" DVD, featuring Bronco and members of last year's football team. Deseret Book is distributing the DVD, and this particular production makes for great family viewing, not to mention a great gift idea for youth. We also expect to be giving away more BYU t-shirts, and jerseys, not to mention KSL knick-knacks. The show goes from 7:00-8:00pm Wednesday night--hope to see a ton of you out there. Crowds have been great and getting bigger each week, so come on out and enjoy the show!

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