SAN DIEGO -- The No. 18 BYU Cougars are coming off one of their most complete games of the 2009 season. The Cougars (5-1, 2-0 MWC) racked up a season high 611 yards and 59 points against UNLV. The defense continued its dominant play with three interceptions and just 14 points allowed (the Rebels returned a kickoff 94 yards for their third touchdown).
But the win didn't help the Cougars' national standing. For the third week in a row BYU remains in the high teens.
The Cougars now make their way to San Diego to face a marginal Aztecs team. San Diego State (2-3, 0-1), coming off a 2-10 season, has a new coaching staff, a renewed focus and a new aggressive approach, but as new Head Coach Brady Hoke admits, his team lacks consistency.
The Aztecs are your typical middle-of-the-road team, good enough to make plays, but unable to do it consistently.
The Cougars know it will be difficult, but they hope for a repeat performance of their trip to Vegas; something to catch the eye of the pollsters, but more importantly to avoid the "trap game" and make sure all cylinders are clicking heading into the showdown against No. 8 TCU.
KSL takes a look back and a look ahead as we prep for game day.
What did we learn about BYU vs UNLV?
- The Cougars are unstoppable when they stick to the game plan and have good balance (43 running plays, 27 passing plays; 200+ rush yards/300+ pass yards at UNLV)
- BYU has a good young stable of receivers (Chambers, Ashworth, Thompson, Hafoka- not to mention an injured Jacobson), capable of capitalizing on double coverage of Pitta
- BYU is best when the Cougars spread the ball around and don't get predictable (nine players caught at least one pass against UNLV)
- Max Hall is capable of an error-free game (21-27, 320 yards 2 TDs, 0 Ints)
What questions do we still have about BYU?
- Injuries played a factor, but are special teams BYU's Achilles heel (Allowed 94-yard KO return against UNLV)?
- Is the Cougar defense vulnerable to the big play (Gave up 75 yard TD pass to UNLV)?
- Can BYU get healthy? (Jacobson, Tialavea will miss the game; Tonga and Johnson are questionable)
What can BYU expect from SDSU?
- A fast, aggressive, Rocky Long-coached defense
- An inconsistent but dangerous passing game with big play potential (WR Vincent Brown: 3rd nationally in receiving yards per game)
- A solid coaching staff that will have used its bye week wisely
- Wonderful weather!!
What can SDSU expect from BYU?
- A balanced attack to keep SDSU guessing
- For Max Hall to spread the ball around to his myriad of receiving options
- an improved run defense (220 total rush yards allowed in three games since fsu racked up 313 on the ground)
- A defensive focus on exploiting SDSU's ineffectiveness on third down (37% conversion rate)
- Mendenhall was defensive coordinator at New Mexico from 1998-2002 under then Head Coach Rocky Long who is now SDSU's def. coordinator
- BYU averages 38.7 points a game (#1 in MWC). SDSU gives up 25. 8 per game (#5 in MWC)
- SDSU averages 23.4 points a game (#7 in MWC). BYU gives up 21.8 points per game (#4 in MWC)
- No team in the country has more red zone points (169) or touchdowns (23) than BYU. SDSU only has eight red zone touchdowns.
- BYU is 11th nationally in first downs per game (23.5), while SDSU is 106th (16.4).
- BYU leads the nation in 3rd down conversion, at 62%. SDSU converts only 37% of the time.
- Max Hall's rating of 201.8 at UNLV was his 5th game with a 200+ QB rating; only Ty Detmer (6) and Steve Sarkisian (6) have recorded more 200+ games at BYU. Jim McMahon and John Beck also had five.
- Unga leads the MWC in rushing yards per game (98.8); more than SDSU averages per game (78.0)
- SDSU WR Vincent Brown is 3rd nationally in receiving yards per game and 11th nationally in receptions per game.
- BYU has had 32 plays of 20+ yards; opponents have only 12 such plays (Florida State had five of them).
- Under Mendenhall BYU is 13-1 when rushing for 200+ yards. The only loss in 2008 to Utah.
- BYU is 4-1 against teams coming off bye weeks. The lone loss to Tulsa in 2007.
Historically, BYU scores a ton of points against San Diego State—the Cougars have scored 41+ in each of the last three meetings. But a Rocky Long defense has given BYU trouble in recent years; in the last eight games against New Mexico (Long's former team), BYU topped 31 points only once, and all but two of those games were decided by seven points or fewer.
Bronco Mendenhall says the Aztecs are "good enough" to beat the Cougars, but it is imperative BYU not slip up ahead of next week's crucial showdown with 8th ranked TCU.