WEEK 1 — BYU vs. Oklahoma
After what seemed like an eternity, we find ourselves at the beginning of another college football season. For many schools, Week 1 means that the possibility of a national title and conference dominance are still very real. It’s a new season in which the sky is the limit — until they taste defeat.
Last year, BYU was riding such positive thinking well into the season until TCU gave us a very rude awakening down in Dallas-Fort Worth. This year, the site of the Cougars crash down to reality will likely come in the same city against a very good Oklahoma team. Is this an automatic BYU loss? Not entirely, but it will be a game where BYU won’t be able to hide their weaknesses.
The great thing about this game is we can know exactly where our boys stand against some of the best in the country. So how exactly do they measure up? Let’s take a look.
In a game that will feature a Heisman Trophy quarterback and some stud skill players, most of the focus will be on the big uglies on offensive line. Both teams lost four of their O-line starters from last season to graduation. The team who’s offensive line can gel and give their respective quarterback protection will have the definite advantage. The reason why Sam Bradford was at the top of his game last year was because his line was stacked. The same also goes for Max Hall. It doesn’t matter if you have the best skill players in the country in your backfield. You will not win games with a shoddy offensive line. So before you start comparing who has the better running back, know that this game will be won in the trenches. ADVANTAGE: OKLAHOMA — I mean, come on… Who’s got the Heisman?
The more I study these two teams, the more they have in common, even on defense. Both teams have stud defensive linemen; Both teams have a few talented linebackers, but have not lived up to their initial billing; Both teams are looking to some fresh faces in the defensive backfield to step up their game. So these are comparable defenses because of the similarities, right? Wrong. It might not be fair to compare the two because they play slightly different positions, but Jan Jorgensen will never be the All-American that Gerald McCoy is. BYU’s linebackers have underperformed in the Mountain West, while Oklahoma battled in the Big 12. The cornerbacks at BYU are seen more as stopgaps in a leaky secondary, while Oklahoma’s DBs are playmakers. It might sound like the same story, but the players are not nearly on the same level. ADVANTAGE: OKLAHOMA — Speed kills on D in the Big D.
It was looking like BYU was going to A-OK in the kicking game until fall camp came around and Mitch Payne couldn’t hit the broad side of the IPF. Riley Stephenson is the clear candidate for punting duties and might take over place kicking if Payne continues to struggle. Jimmy Stevens, Matthew Moreland and Tress Way share the kicking and punting duties for the Sooners. Stevens, the field goal kicker, was fairly consistent last season but was not spectacular. The big difference will come in the return game and, unless BYU can revamp its kick coverage, its going to be a long day on special teams. ADVANTAGE: OKLAHOMA — Once again, speed kills.
There is no doubt that Bob Stoops and Bronco Mendenhall are two of the best coaches in the game. Just based on their records, these two should be receiving all kinds of accolades. The one thing that has plagued both coaches has been the inability to win the big game. Stoops, a.k.a. “Big Game Bob,” has lost so many BCS games that no one seems to count anymore. Mendenhall has proven to be a master at beating the talentless but, when it comes to beating ranked teams, his record is less than perfect. So who takes the cake in this one? ADVANTAGE: EVEN — Maybe Big Game Bob will make an appearance.
The first game of the season is always a tough call. There really is no way of knowing how each team will stack up against each other. I see the first half being pretty close, with both teams trying to find their rhythm on offense. In the second half though, OU will pull away by capitalizing on a critical BYU miscue and stroll on from there. The Cougars will put up a valiant fight, but it won’t be enough for a victory. PREDICTION: Oklahoma 38, BYU 21.
Jake Welch is a sports correspondent for Rhombus. If you hear a very angry man screaming that the referees are “bush league” at BYU home games this year, chances are it’s probably Jake.
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