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PROVO — If BYU continues the two-win, two-loss pattern it's maintained so far this football season, Saturday will yield another defeat.
But with the recent upswing of solid wins and commendable performances against opponents — quarterback Riley Nelson didn't throw a single interception against Idaho — the Cougars are finally sitting pretty with a slot in the Poinsettia bowl, and the remainder of the season is looking like a victory march.
First though, BYU will take on San Jose State in Spartan Stadium — a venue the Cougs haven't been to since 1968.
Don't be fooled, folks: Though the assumption of the Cougars' remaining cream puff schedule lives on, San Jose State is pretty good. At the very least, they have a better record (8-2) than BYU (6-4).
"(The Spartans) score 30-something points a game and 300-plus yards through the air," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "It will be a big challenge. They are a good team. I think it will be a great game; looking forward to the challenge. It’s another road game with great TV exposure with two good teams playing. Yeah, our team is excited to play."
Thankfully, BYU has begun to earn the trust of sports experts nationwide, and has been dubbed the to-be winner of Saturday's game.
In fact, after the Cougars' 52-13 domination of Idaho, Bleacher Report's Samuel Benson "graded" 18 BYU players, crowning 14 of their performances with As.
One of those As was Ezekiel Ansah, a senior linebacker from Ghana who continues to leave a trail of tackled opponents behind him.
"Ezekiel 'Ziggy' Ansah swatted away two passes and had three solo tackles in the first half itself, and made his presence felt," wrote Benson. "He was consistently putting pressure on Idaho's quarterback, and even popped Vandal running back Ryan Bass' helmet off with a hard tackle."
With the NFL draft looming, Ansah's stock continues to rise — something experts can't seem to get over considering he didn't know how to put football pads on two years ago.
"The defensive line class is the deepest on the board, with 15 players in the top 32," wrote ESPN's Todd McShay. "That group now includes Ghana-born DE Ezekiel Ansah, who could become one of the most memorable picks in recent years if he chooses to enter the draft."
Speaking of defensive lines, BYU's "Zion Curtain" of a defense continues to claw its way to the top of NCAA rushing defense rankings, clocking in this week at No. 4. (BYU's pass defense fell from No. 9 to 10.)
In response to growing faith from fans and experts, freshman running back Jamaal Williams expressed the team's desire to remain sure-footed and humble.
"We know we are doing well right now, but we are going to keep doing what we do and just stay level-headed," Williams said. "We aren’t going to come in too cocky or anything, but come in aggressive and competitive and show them that we are a challenge for them."
The Spartans are on a victory high, winning their past five games, and head coach Mike MacIntyre considers the game against the Cougars "one of the biggest games in the modern history of San Jose State football."
While BYU has its golden ticket to a bowl game, San Jose State is still on the prowl, and a win against a nationally recognized school like BYU could be the Spartans' ticket to ride.
"They're bowl-eligible. We're bowl-eligible.," MacIntyre said. "It's two very, very good football teams playing each other on a Saturday night on national television. For a college kid and a college head football coach, it doesn't really get much better than that."