Analysis: BYU-Texas position preview
Heading into the season opener, Taysom Hill was getting some Heisman hype and was recognized as one of the best dual threat passers in the nation. The only question left to answer was his accuracy issues, which he quickly put to bed with a 35-10 win over UConn. Hill was an offensive juggernaut, accounting for five touchdowns and 405 yards of offense. Still, this week is a rematch with Texas, that looks much improved under Charlie Strong and will be a tough road test after the Cougars embarrassed the Longhorns in Provo last season . With that in mind, here's a position-by-position look at this week's matchup and which team will have the edge heading into Saturday's game:
Hill had the best debut of any Utah quarterback, rolling in the passing and running game against UConn. He connected on 28-of-36 passes for 308 yards passing and three touchdowns, while rushing for 97 yards and two touchdowns. He looked confident and showed accuracy and poise, with a chance to be even better this week when he gets weapons like Jamaal Williams and Devon Blackmon back. Texas will be a much stiffer test after allowing only 15 yards passing to North Texas in the first week, but Hill will still have a big impact.
Presumptive Texas starter David Ash will miss the BYU game with a concussion, a blow for Texas. In his place will be sophomore Tyrone Swoopes, who will make his first career start after passing for 26 yards and rushing for 79 and a touchdown in six games last season. Making matters worse, starting center Dominic Espinosa was lost for the season with a broken ankle, taking way some protection for Swoopes. The sophomore may fare well at home, but Hill gets the distinct advantage here.
After a violation of team rules, Jamaal Williams is back for the Cougars in the starting lineup, a huge boost to the BYU offense. He rolled over the Longhorns last season for 182 yards and will take some pressure off Hill offensively. Williams' return also complements strong depth at the position. Paul Lasike, Algernon Brown and Adam Hine combined for 201 yards of total offense last week in Williams' stead and should factor in when the starter needs a break. As usual, Hill will also be a big factor in the ground game.
To take some pressure off Swoopes, Texas will need big games from Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. Brown looks like a feature back after his game last week, where he rushed for 65 yards and two touchdowns, while Gray completes the two-headed monster backfield with 82 yards of his own against North Texas. Still, BYU's depth in the backfield and Hill's rushing ability give this position advantage to the Cougars.
Mitch Mathews was expected to be the leader for a crop of new BYU receivers and showed up big in the first game, racking up 62 yards and a touchdown on five catches. Terenn Houk was a bit of a surprise as the second leading receiver with 58 yards and a touchdown of his own, while the running backs all contributed in the passing game. Even better for the Cougars is the return of Devon Blackmon, who should have a chance to make an immediate impact. However, BYU will have to find more holes in a tough Texas secondary than North Texas. North Texas isn't BYU, but the secondary threat is there.
Just like Brown and Gray, Texas' receivers will have to step up and help Swoopes as much as possible to get him settled in early. Senior John Harris looks to be the "go-to" guy in the Longhorns offense after he caught seven passes for 110 yards and a touchdown against North Texas. Fellow senior Jaxon Shipley will be another threat after grabbing six passes for 43 yards in the season debut. Hill's experience gives the Cougars a slight edge, however, because Swoopes is largely an unknown.
A nearly totally revamped BYU offensive line held it together well against UConn. The Huskies generated only one sack and Hill operated from a clean pocket for most of the day while the offensive line looked comfortable in both pass protection and run blocking. Still, Texas' defensive front is a much tougher test and will look to pressure Hill early and often.
Texas' offensive line surrendered two sacks against North Texas and should have a tougher time containing BYU's defense. The loss of Espinosa is huge and to make matters worse, offensive tackles Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle have been suspended for the game for violating team rules. The Longhorns enter the game starting an offensive line with only five combined starts in front of a quarterback with no career stars. Yikes.
Upon losing Spencer Hadley, Eathyn Manumaleuna and Kyle Van Noy, BYU needed new defensive leaders to step up. Early returns show Zac Stout and Bronson Kaufusi are ready to fill the void after the duo combiend for 14 tackles, three sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss against Utah. As a whole, BYU generated four sacks and held UConn to only 71 yards rushing. If the front seven can contain Brown and Gray and pressure Swoopes, the Cougars could have a big day.
Texas' defensive front was dominant against North Texas, holding the opposition to only 79 yards rushing on 43 attempts and 15 passing yards for a total of 94 yards. The Longhorns racked up four sacks in the game. Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway was nearly unblockable, grabbing two sacks, two tackles for loss and five tackles, while linebacker Jordan Hicks had eight tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception. This Texas defense is a far cry from the one that gave up 40 points last season in Provo.
This was the weak link of BYU's season opener, as the Cougars gave up 284 yards to UConn. Texas won't be a huge aerial threat, but BYU will need more from its corners to contend in this game. Craig Bills looked like a leader again at the safety spot racking up five tackles and freshman Jordan Preator had two pass breakups, but the Cougars will need to grab a couple of picks from Swoopes to turn the tide in this game.
Texas' secondary was probably the best unit on the field against North Texas, grabbing four interceptions and returning one for a touchdown. The unit held North Texas to a paltry 15 yards and mirrored receivers all day long. Dylan Haines, Mykkele Thompson and Dylan Haines are players to watch.
Prediction: Texas has been looking forward to this game for a year after the Longhorns were embarrassed last season in Provo. Losing Ash and several defensive linemen will hurt, but the crowd will be rocking and the defense has potential to frustrate Hill and the Cougar offense. BYU will put up a valiant effort, but a few turnovers and a determined Texas team will be the difference as the Longhorns squeak out a 20-14 victory.