The BYU Cougars have not been losing a bad teams. The ‘Cougs 5-game losing streak has included opponents such as Boise State, Louisville and Wisconsin.
But any discussion of strength-of-schedule, bad breaks and so on would miss the larger narrative.
Celebrated QB Tanner Mangum is having a disaster of a season, completing less than 55% of his throws and collecting 6 interceptions to just 2 TD passes. The junior was also hurt during the losing streak, returning to the field just in time to lose to the Boise State Broncos.
Brigham Young University actually had the chance to sign Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo 2 years ago, but passed largely due to Mangum’s preferred pass-happy style. QB-over-coaching seemed like a reasonable deal then, thanks to the young signal-caller’s potential. Not in hindsight.
BYU and Mangum will limp southeastward to take on Mississippi State on Saturday, with the Bulldogs installed as heavy favorites.
Who: BYU Cougars at Mississippi State Bulldogs
When: Saturday, October 14th, 12 PM EST
Where: Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, MS
Lines: BYU (+24) at MSST (-24) / O/U Total: (48)
The Bulldogs are facing a losing streak of their own, falling to ranked SEC opponents Georgia and Auburn by a combined 80-13 score on the past 2 weekends. Against Auburn, QB Nick Fitzgerald was badly out-played by his counterpart Jarret Stidham, going 13-of-33 with 2 interceptions.
But the Bulldogs have ran the ball with success in ’17, getting well over 5 yards per carry as a team. Top tailback Aeris Williams has 409 yards, and Fitzgerald is a speedster on read-option keepers. The Bulldogs rushed for almost 300 yards in their best game of the season, a 37-7 beat-down of LSU.
A bigger issue in Starkville is a defense which couldn’t stop either an orthodox offense (Georgia) or an unorthodox scheme (Auburn and its Wing-T playbook) for any length of time at all in the past pair of games.
BYU can hope to run successfully and grind the clock to help stave off a physical mismatch at the hands of the bigger, deeper ‘Dogs. But the Cougars have been awful on the ground in ’17 with only 3.5 team ypc.
Any above-average Power-5 defense can punish the Cougars at this point, especially at home. The under would be a promising bet, given that neither QB has been lighting it up, but we’re seeing some turnovers and mayhem ending at least a few BYU possessions – and potentially leading to easy points for the Bulldogs.
Take Mississippi State to cover the big spread. Mangum’s injury and confidence issues will bring disaster to the visiting offense and turn a 2 or 3-touchdown advantage into a blow-out by the hosts.