BYU Football will have to prepare quite a bit before facing the Ute defense on August 29th.
If BYU Football is able to pull off the upset against No. 15 Utah in less than two weeks it is going to have to get passed the Ute defense. The Utes are coming back with a Top 3 defensive front in the nation and take a lot of pride in being able to stop the run and get to the the quarterback. Here is a preview of what to expect from the Utah's defense.
Returning Starters: 7
Players to watch out for: The entire defensive line, CB Jaylon Johnson, S Julian Blackman, former Cougar LB Francis Bernard
Strengths: Defensive Line, Secondary
The defensive line may end up being the best defensive front in all of college football. Last season, the Utes ranked first in rushing yards allowed per game (100) in the Pac-12 and ranked second in scoring defense (19 ppg ). They return all starters and a total of six linemen who played quite a bit last season.
The secondary will be another strength of the Utes. While they did lose both of their starting safeties, it is expected that Julian Blackman will move back to the safety position to help get the best 11 players on the field.
Weaknesses: Linebackers, Injuries
The linebackers Chase Hansen and Cody Barton, possibly the best duo ever to play for the Utes both are gone leaving the position without much experience and time to gel as a unit in a live game situation. Former Cougar Francis Bernard will be the leading linebacker with redshirt sophomore Devin Lloyd and the third spot being open to this point. Danny Bowen, a grad-transfer from Penn State was supposed to play but suddenly decided to retire earlier this summer. By the end of the season this may be a strength, but for BYU it could play out well for them.
Injuries to either the secondary or linebackers could also be very costly to the Utes. As it is, the linebackers do not have a lot of experience playing together and the secondary, although very good are not two deep. Although the Utes claim they are, the fact that Julian Blackman was asked to play safety shows that there is a potential weakness.
Finally, the Utes aren't reporting any injuries during Fall Camp which begs the question as to whether there are any players who are starters/backups that won't be playing.
What BYU has to do to expose the Utes
The Cougars are going to have to use a lot of mid range throws and outside runs. The defensive line is probably not going to give up many yards through the hashes so running backs are going to have to get on the outside and force the defensive backs, linebackers and defensive ends to make the plays. Doing this enough could actually open up the middle of field for some runs especially with the strong offensive line of the Cougars.
Prediction: BYU is going to score points on short fields and explosive plays, but will only have one drive that goes for more than 12 plays.