It’s bowl season and this year WMU gets to play along. It’s a good step for Tim Lester’s program in year two and a chance to end the year very promisingly after a letdown stretch towards the end of the year.
WMU is in Boise, Idaho to play Brigham Young University. It’s WMU’s second appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and the Broncos are looking for only their second bowl win in program history (1-7 in bowls).
But we know about WMU. What about BYU?
BYU, an independent, went 6-6 this year. This is BYU’s third year with coach Kalani Sitake at the helm, with a 19-19 record to his name so far.
Notably, BYU beat Wisconsin in Madison this year. Other notable teams they played against were Arizona (won 28-23), Washington (lost 35-7), Northern Illinois (lost 7-6) and Utah (lost 35-27).
Team Overview (stats via NCAA)
Total Offense: 107th. Offensive YPG: 354.5 (behind BGSU, Miami, EMU, Ball State)
BYU’s offense is similar to WMU and a lot of other teams. They line up in spread looks half the time and then bring guys in tight and go under center for more of a pro-style look. BYU uses lots of motion and some misdirection. They like to run the ball and work the passing game out of it. Quarterback Zach Wilson will run the ball and they have good running backs that they rotate.
Total Defense: 18th. Defensive YPG: 325 (ahead of Notre Dame, Florida, LSU, NIU).
Rush Defense: 26th. Rush YPG allowed: 129.4 (ahead of Georgia, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio)
Defensively, BYU runs a 3-4. In that 3-4 they show some varied looks, letting the defensive ends move around from the line to linebacker spots. I didn’t see them use a lot of pressure against NIU. As the numbers show – and according to coach Lester – this is a good defense that makes you earn everything.
Zach Wilson, QB #11. Wilson is a true freshman quarterback. He has been the starter for six weeks, leading BYU to a 3-3 record. Watching BYU highlights you can see that he is very athletic. He likes to run and is fourth on the team in carries. He’s got a nice arm and has athletes on the outside to throw to.
Lopini Katoa, RB #4. Freshman running back who leads the team in rushing touchdowns. His status for the game is unknown as he missed BYU’s last game of the year with an injury. However, he is listed as a starter on BYU’s pre-bowl depth chart.
Squally Canada, RB #22. Senior running back, team leader in carries. Missed the last two games of season with an injury. If Katoa can’t go, Canada will be getting a lot of the reps, although in highlights he seems to be more of a short yardage guy.
Matt Bushman, TE #89. Leads the team in receiving yards. Probably a safety valve for Wilson much like Gio Ricci for WMU.
Aleva Hifo, WR #15. Leads team in receptions, also returns kicks. Listed as slot receiver on BYU’s pre-bowl depth chart. They will get him the ball on screens and hand it off to him as well (29 carries this season).
Sione Takitaki, LB #16. Leads team with 99 tackles.
Khyiris Tonga, DT #95. Tonga is HUGE. He’s 340 pounds, and looks to plug up the middle of the offensive line.
BYU will be missing some of their top players in the Potato Bowl. Out with injury are RB Matt Hadley, DE Corbin Kaufusi, LB Isaiah Kaufusi and potentially Lopini Katoa as mentioned above.
What They’re Saying: BYU Expecting a physical game https://www.sltrib.com/sports/byu-cougars/2018/12/17/byu-is-heavy-favorite/
What Coach Lester Said: Lester spent about 25 minutes addressing the media in his pre-bowl presser. When asked about what stood out to him on film about BYU, he replied saying ‘they’re huge’. He also talked about how he was impressed with their defense, saying they’re “stout as heck”.
What I Say: I feel like this will be a close game decided in the fourth quarter. Whoever can win the battle up front will win, and whoever is the stronger, better conditioned team will have the better chance of winning this football game.
From the looks of it, BYU is a big team that plays physical. They have a lot of talent as shown by their wins over Arizona and Wisconsin. Their defense carries the team and will be the key factor in deciding this game. BYU isn’t the best offense that we will have faced this year but their size and athleticism will be a test for WMU.
For WMU, they need to continue what we’ve seen the past few weeks of the season. Run the ball as much as we can and then look to spread the ball around a little bit off of play action. If it doesn’t snow, I’d like to see WMU throw more than they have in weeks past.
As far as the spread goes, 12 is a big number. I don’t feel like BYU covers that unless the game gets away from WMU late. WMU isn’t great against the spread, but I still feel like the game will be closer than 12 points.
I’ll pick WMU to win, just because I want them to win. However, it could end up being a very tough game for the Broncos.
From what I was reading, BYU might not be up for this game. They’ve already played in Boise this year (they lost) and probably deserved a better season and bowl game.
WMU on the other hand should be hungry after missing a bowl game last year. They also probably deserved a better season, but this game is an opportunity for them to end the year on a high note.
Thanks for reading, and Go Broncos!