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PROVO -- Sometimes to the ire of BYU fans Cougar Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall downplays the emotion that comes with the rivalry game against Utah and stresses the importance of execution.
This week has been no different. Mendenhall prefers the hype and emotion to be among fans and works tirelessly to keep his players focused on the game plan.
That game plan has a common theme- execute on offense and stick to your assignments on defense.
Senior quarterback Max Hall will lead this Cougar team against a solid Utah team that's shaken off the "rebuilding" label and led by a freshman quarterback, is capable, sometimes explosive, offensively.
The teams are relatively even in a variety of statistical categories, not to mention record (both teams are 9-2 overal, 6-1 MWC).
Hall will look to maintain his teams recent momentum, redeem last year's nightmare performance (five interceptions in the 48-24 loss) and go out a winner against the Utes.
KSL takes a look back and a look ahead as we prep for game day.
What did we learn about BYU versus Air Force?
- BYU remains a great front-runner; a two-touchdown-plus lead at half has proven iron-clad
- The offensive line continues to give Max Hall time to dominate
- The Cougars are having to manage injured RB Harvey Unga's snaps
- The Cougars play best when emotionally-invested
What questions do we still have about BYU?
- Can the Cougars translate emotion into execution?
- How much will BYU be able to rely on Unga (ankle) Saturday?
- Can BYU take advantage of home-field advantage in a series where home-field advantage doesn't appear to matter?
- How much will BYU stray from its conservative defensive approach versus Utah freshman QB Jordan Wynn?
What can BYU expect from Utah?
- A well-prepared, but emotional team
- A patient offense waiting to make a big play
- A risk-taking QB in freshman Wynn
- A playmaking defense (led by safety Robert Johnson), intent on pressuring Hall and forcing him into bad throws
What can Utah expect from BYU?
- A concerted effort to get out of blocks and on the scoreboard quickly
- A steady diet of Unga rushing and receiving
- Hall to take advantage of his tight ends against a pressure defense
- Different looks and alignments on defense to confuse and frustrate the freshman quarterback, much like they did against Oklahoma
- Since Whittingham and Mendenhall took over the series is even at 2-2, with both teams splitting on their home fields.
- ronco Mednenhall is now 16-2 in November: both losses to Utah (2005 and 2008).
- If BYU beats Utah, the Cougars will have recorded their 15th 10-plus win season. Utah is playing for its fifth such season.
- The margin of victory in 10 of the last 12 BYU-Utah games has been seven points or fewer. The only two exceptions were 2004 (Utah won 52-21) and 2008 (Utah won 47-24), both wins sending the Utes to BCS bowl games.
- The combined margin of BYU's last five wins over Utah is 21 points. To find the Cougars' last "big" win over Utah, you have to go back to 1996, when BYU prevailed 37-17 in Salt Lake City.
- Since 1969, only one senior BYU QB has lost the Utah game in his final game against the rivals: Kevin Feterik in 1999 (L, 20-17).
- BYU leads the country in 3rd down conversion percentage at 58.%; Utah is 8th nationally in 3rd down defense at 30.7%.
- BYU is 2nd nationally in pass efficiency with a rating of 167.7; Utah is 10th nationally in pass efficiency defense, allowing a rating of 100.8.
This is the kind of game a senior BYU quarterback should win, especially considering the inexperience behind the opposite center. The Cougars can justifiably claim to hold the statistical and comparative edge against Utah, and if other intangibles are more or less equal, BYU's advantage should carry the Cougars to victory.
It has been 13 years since BYU cruised to victory against their rivals; Max Hall may be poised to let loose with the "signature" effort of his Cougar career.