BYU lost a lot of players on both offense and defense in the offseason. They get an opportunity to develop team chemistry against an FCS school in Portland State.
BYU and Portland square off this coming Saturday in what will be a 'Week Zero" game because it takes place in August, before the majority of College Football teams begin their season. BYU lost a lot of talent from last season and is not only looking to rediscover its quality from last year, but is also probably forced to rediscover its identity. Playing Portland State gives them the opportunity to resolve issues facing their new team before they have to play LSU in Week 1. Portland State is an FCS team, meaning that it is still a division-I school that can offer full-time scholarships, but in terms of culture, size of its athletic department and other sports-related factors, belongs to the lower tier of Division-I, along with the likes of Sam Houston State and other schools that people possibly have never heard of.
BYU will miss its all-time leading rusher in running back Jamaal Williams and its number 5 all-time rusher in quarterback Taysom Hill. BYU thrived as a rush-first team thanks to this duo. Williams was a workhorse who ran the ball 25 times or more in all but one of BYU's wins last season. The current Green Bay Packer complemented Hill, who leads BYU quarterbacks in career rushing yards.
BYU will look to Tanner Mangum, a quarterback who hasn't played much but has a very live arm, to lead a new-look offense that will likely be passing more without a running back with the ability of Williams. Squally Canada and KJ Hall will bring athleticism and speed to the fore, but this duo, along with bruising running back Ula Tolutau, are unproven, both in terms of durability and of performing against top-quality opponents.
BYU's passing game should thrive especially thanks to having a quarterback in Mangum who is proficient in passing. Jonah Trinnaman will be his favorite target. He is a deep threat who runs a 4.32 40-yard dash. Expect a lot of deep passes against a Portland State squad that will struggle against BYU's experienced and high-quality offensive line to apply pressure on Mangum.
BYU will still experience other changes on the defensive side. They lose Kai Nacua, who led the secondary with 6 interceptions, at least twice as many as any other player on the team. But otherwise, they return significant talent and possess a lot of depth in the secondary. The aspect where they lost a lot was on the defensive line.
Whereas last season teams passed on BYU more than they ran on them and BYU also struggled in terms of allowing passing yards but was solid against the run, this season will see the reverse. BYU's two most highly-regarded defensive linemen in 2017, Langi Tuifua and Sione Takitaki, are proven pass rushers, but provide question marks against the run. Also, unexpected circumstances constrain BYU to replace an experienced and talented linebacker with a safety. Against Portland State, BYU will have to figure out who will be able to stop LSU's lethal rush attack. If BYU struggles at all against Portland State's FCS-level rush "attack," then bettors should get ready to start making appropriate bets (team total or otherwise) on rush-heavy teams like LSU.
Portland State, being an FCS team, doesn't have anything with which to counter BYU's strengths or take advantage of their weaknesses. This is a team that, last year, faced one FBS team, Washington, and lost to the Huskies 41-3. They only managed 10 points against Weber State, in a 14-10 loss. Portland State does return a lot of its starters from last season. Even though they do have the "advantage" of having some more experience from last season than BYU does, they were still only picked 9th in the Big Sky Conference Preseason Poll, out of 13 teams.
Portland State will be outmatched and overwhelmed. Despite the disparity in talent, BYU will have the motivation of tuning up in preparation for facing LSU on September 2nd. They have questions to answer especially in the running back and defensive line positions. They took an unexpected hit in linebacker when Francis Bernard was forced to redshirt due to reasons that even he and his family don't seem to understand. They lost two legends on offense and will have to reforge their identity as a passing-team, depending on how BYU's wide receivers fare now that they have a quarterback with a live arm and depending on which running backs step up in Williams' absence. The Cougars will want to resolve these questions before facing LSU.The Verdict
Portland State will be outmatched and overwhelmed on our NCAAF Picks. This is a classic example of a look-ahead game: when a group of guys superior in talent and ability underperform against an opponent that they know they can easily wallop because they are looking ahead to the tougher opponent that they will play next week. BYU will also not want to reveal too much of its playbook on Week 1. BYU’s players will chill out once they’ve found a rhythm and prepared themselves sufficiently for LSU. This game will be a training session for BYU that does not require or inspire much effort.Free NCAAF Pick: Portland State +33
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