Who Do We Hate This Week?: Welcoming BYU To East Hartford

Brief Visiting Team Overview – BYU

BYU travels 2,293 miles this week – from Provo, Utah to East Hartford, Connecticut – in hopes of spoiling Bob Diaco’s head coaching debut for Connecticut’s only Division I FCS program. Whether or not the Cougars can play out such a scenario, is another question.

Coming off a second straight 8-5 season, BYU turns to eight returning starters on offense, six on defense, and tenth year head coach Bronco Mendenhall in hopes of heading to their tenth straight bowl game – a streak that, until last year’s 16-31 loss to Washington in the 2013 Fight Hunger Bowl, included four consecutive victories from 2009-2012.

Standing in the Cougars way, however, is a sneaky schedule that includes matchups with the University of Texas Longhorns, University of Virginia Cavaliers, University of Central Florida Knights, University of California Golden Bears and a potential upset-trap when BYU travels to Middle Tennessee State (8-5, 6-2 C-USA) in November.

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It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see BYU stumble to a third straight 8-5 season. At least I wouldn’t be shocked, anyway.

Player To Watch: Taysom Hill (QB) 

The six-foot-two-inch Junior from Pocatello, Idaho enters his second season as the Cougars starting quarterback, and with it, comes higher expectations. Hill is capable of beating teams as both a threat to step up and dial it in through the air and finding running room outside the pocket.

Hill racked up 2,938 passing yards and 19 passing touchdowns last Fall, to go along with 1,344 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Though Hill struggled at times with turnovers (14 interceptions), there is little doubt the man who ran for 259 yards during a Week 2 match-up against Texas last year will be hard for Diaco’s defense to handle.

With running back Jamaal Williams suspended for the opener, expect Hill to take on even more responsibility.

Match-up To Watch: Jefferson Ashiru/Reubuen Frank vs. Hill 

With Hill’s mobility potentially wrecking havoc on Friday, it’ll be worth watching how well UConn’s outside linebackers can contain Hill between the hash marks.

According to The UConn Blog, Ashiru will likely beat out Graham Stewart for the “Cat” linebacker spot – meaning Ashiru will be patrolling the slot receivers and tight ends pretty heavy on Friday night. Though, with BYU’s ability to roll out a vintage option-style-offense, Ashiru will be spending a good portion of his night keeping an eye on Hill.

More important, Frank, the team’s projected “Dog” linebacker, is the man who will be heavily leaned on to monitor Hill’s scrambling tactics. Frank, a redshirt Senior who converted from fullback to defensive end last Fall, could be in for a long night. Or, he could play an integral part in getting Bob Diaco his first victory. Either one is possible.

Prediction: BYU 24 – UConn 13

UConn’s defense will do a solid job of limiting Hill, but an unproven offense led by Casey Cochran will struggle to move the ball against a defense that placed 22nd in points allowed per game (22.1).

Hopefully the Huskies prove me wrong and by this time next week I’m on the Cochran bandwagon. If not, losing to BYU wouldn’t doom their season by any means. It’d just mean that my 12-0 season in NCAA Football 14 won’t come true.