Loyal Cougars

BYU v. Missouri Preview

Game Capsule

BYU Cougars (7-2) vs. Missouri Tigers (4-5)

Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

Kickoff Time: Saturday, November 14, 2015, 6:30pm CST

TV: SEC Network (Brent Musburger/Jesse Palmer/Maria Taylor), BYUtv Countdown to Kickoff (Dave McCann/Blaine Fowler) 4:30pm MDT

Radio: Cougar IMG Sports Network (Greg Wrubell/Marc Lyons): Sirius XM 143, KSL 1160 AM and 102.7 FM, and online at BYUcougars.com

BYU Game NotesMissouri Game Notes

Statistical Preview

So, BYU only met one of my seven benchmarks from last week’s preview. And the Cougars still got a win. And while that makes me wrong on certain levels, I did hedge my guesses a bit. I said that BYU should win if they pass for an efficiency better than 140.77 (Mangum finished at 132.19), hold SJSU to 38% or less on 3rd Down conversions (the Spartans converted 40%), hold Tyler Ervin under 6 ypc (Ervin finished with 3.5 ypc), and enter the Red Zone more times than the SJSU offense (both teams had 3 trips inside the 20). So, while BYU only achieved one of those benchmarks, I didn’t say BYU couldn’t win without them.

I did put myself out there on the other three benchmarks, basically guaranteeing a BYU victory if the Cougars could win the turnover margin (each team had 1), score 28 points or more (BYU finished with 17), and rush for 225 yards (BYU finished with only 36 yards on the ground). BYU failed to reach those goals, and winning the game on a last-minute defensive play would seem to show that I wasn’t too far off. If the Cougars had performed better in any one of these three areas, the margin of victory would definitely have been larger.

And so, we look ahead to tonight’s game in Kansas City. I’ll try to keep it simple this week. Here are the keys to the game:

  1. Scoring: I know, I know. I could just say “the team that scores the most points will win this game.” But, this week especially, points are going to come at a premium. To give you an idea, Missouri has the 4th-best scoring defense in the county (allowing just 14.6 ppg) and the 2nd-worst scoring offense in the country (averaging only 14.7 points per game). With a few offensive linemen still on the mend, BYU’s recent offensive struggles may continue, making points that much more difficult to come by. The Missouri offense struggles in all facets of the game ranking in the bottom 10 in total offense (282.6 ypg, 3rd-worst), 3rd Down conversions (29.2%, 3rd-worst), passing efficiency (98.86, 10th-worst), rushing yards (113.2, 10th-worst), and scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone (31.8%, worst in FBS). All the statistics indicate that we shouldn’t expect an offensive MAC-style shootout, but more of a methodical field position battle with lots of punts. While Bronco Mendenhall usually sets the bar at 24 points for both points scored and points allowed, I think the bar for this week will be closer to 14. If BYU can score 14 points or more, the Cougars should get the victory tonight.
  2. Defensive/Special Teams Scoring: In a back-and-forth, low-scoring affair, big momentum-shifting plays tend to make the difference (i.e. at Ole Miss in 2011, the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl against SDSU). BYU has only had one non-offensive score this season, a game-sealing interception return by Kai Nacua against Boise State. On the other side, BYU has surrendered two non-offensive scores: the 61-yard interception return against San Jose State last week, and the blocked punt for a touchdown against ECU. It’s been long enough since Nacua’s Pick 6, it’s time for another defensive score. And against an offense as bad as Missouri’s, the BYU defense will have a great opportunity to do it again tonight. But, Missouri’s defense is much better than San Jose State’s, and may be able to able to force a few turnovers of its own, especially if Tanner Mangum and the BYU offense are not at the top of their game. The best chance for BYU to get a non-offensive score might be on kick return, against Missouri’s 4th-worst kick coverage in the country. Of course, if the game is as low-scoring as we all predict, the Cougars won’t get too many chances to run one back. My prediction: If a team scores a non-offensive touchdown, that team will win the game.
  3. Field Position: If there are no defensive/special teams touchdowns, short field position after a turnover may turn out to be the difference tonight. BYU is 5-0 when winning the starting field position battle in 2015. If the Cougars can have a better average starting field position, they will win tonight.
  4. BYU Offensive Balance: Against a SJSU defense previously ranked 115th against the run, the Cougars managed to roll up just 36 yards on the ground. That does not bode well as the Cougars prepare to face the 22nd-best rush defense this week. Whether the poor run performance was due to the absence of BYU’s best four offensive linemen and injury concerns in the backfield, predictable offensive playcalling, or SJSU selling out to stop the run, it seems clear that BYU will likely face similar difficulties running the ball in Kansas City tonight. That said, BYU scored touchdowns on its first two drives at San Jose State. How? By relying heavily on the pass. On the two touchdown drives, BYU ran 27 total plays: 8 runs for 43 yards, and 13-of-19 passing (68.4%) for 112 yards. Without looking deeper into the game film, I don’t know why BYU rushed for -7 yards on 17 carries for the remaining three quarters of the game. Here’s what I do know: for the remainder of the game, BYU passed for 181 yards on 10-of-18 (55.6%). The passing performances are easily comparable:
    tempIt appears that Mangum and the offense were successful early running shorter pass routes (68.4% and 8.6 yards per completion) and then went away from that plan in favor of longer pass plays for the rest of the game. And while the yardage went way up, the completion percentage was way down (55.6%) resulting in more failed conversions and more punts (4 of the 5 punts were preceded by failed pass plays on 3rd down). If BYU is going to have success against Missouri, it will need to have a little bit more balance on offense. And, while BYU’s normal pattern is to establish the run first and then the pass, the SJSU game showed that you can use the pass to establish the run. Missouri’s defense is stout against the pass as well, but not as much so as its rush defense. BYU will need to have success in the pass game in order to beat Mizzou. And, if last week is any indication, the way to do that is by running shorter routes that allow Tanner Mangum to gain some confidence early. If BYU can use the pass to establish the run and finish the night with at least 100 yards on the ground and 250 yards through the air, the Cougars will get the win. If you’re wondering why only 250 yards through the air, look no further than the first two drives from last week. If BYU attempts shorter pass plays and averages 8.6 yards per completion, it takes 29 completions to reach 250 yards. And with a 68.4% completion rate, that takes about 42 pass attempts. That would certainly be a pass-heavy night against a Missouri defense that likely won’t allow too many long drives down the field.
  5. Intangibles: There’s a large amount of weirdness and chaos surrounding this game, mostly on the Missouri sideline. In the past week, Missouri has had to deal with a hostile campus environment, a player-led boycott that put the very game in jeopardy, division on the team, and now the news that Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel will retire at the end of the season. That’s a lot for these 20-somethings to deal with and still put a game plan in place and prepare for this BYU team. Add to that the fact that both teams will be playing in an unfamiliar environment with a mixed-loyalty crowd and there’s no telling how it will all affect the teams. Will Missouri come out flat, distracted, and confused? Or will the Tigers be hyper-motivated by everything that’s been going on? One more intangible: BYU will be wearing navy blue jerseys away from home. BYU’s record when wearing any shade of blue this season: 4-0. There’s not really any way to quantify this category, but don’t be surprised if the chaos surrounding Missouri plays a role in the outcome, either for good or bad.


Depth Chart/Roster

Lastly, here is a look at the projected Depth Chart for today’s game against Missouri.

2015 11 13 Game 10 Mizzou
You can download the JPG and PDF versions of the latest Depth Chart, as well as a current roster, at the following location:


Go Cougs!

One Comment

  1. Chris Allen

    November 16, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Well, I think you nailed it on the last one…and it was for the worse, sadly.