Mountain West Week 12 Expanded Preview Blog
Posted Nov 20, 2008

The big storylines and overviews for all the Mountain West games.

Mountain West Storylines Blog

ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | M-West | Pac 10 | SEC

CFN Writers
Big East By J.P. Girouard; Big 10 By Tony Castricone; Big 12 By Sean Martin; Conference USA By Greg Vacek; Independents By Adam Nettina; MAC By Adam Nettina; Mountain West By Jim Riffel; Pac 10 By Dan Greenspan; SEC By Gabe Harris and Barrett Sallee; Sun Belt By John Martello; WAC By Jon Tavares

BYU (10-1) at Utah (11-0) 6 pm
--BYU used a big second half to win 38-24 at Air Force last week to set up the “Holy War” showdown. The Cougars have a shot at a share of the Mountain West Conference title and can keep their rival out of the BCS, and if they can win in a blowout, they have a distant shot of getting an automatic BCS slot by finishing in the top 12 and ahead of Boise State and Ball State. They have won the last two battles against the Utes in classic fashion. Last year it was a huge fourth down throw that kept the game-winning drive alive, and two years ago it was a touchdown pass from a scrambling John Beck on the final play of the game to pull off the win.
--The Utes had an easy road trip last week with a 63-14 rout of San Diego State, a margin that was lengthened by two fourth-quarter interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. The outburst followed a pair of games they won despite scoring 13 points in each game. The last gasp win over TCU a few weeks ago set the tone for this week’s showdown; it’s the game the program has been talking about for an entire year. An outright league championship and a BCS game – possibly the Orange Bowl – are ahead with a win. The Utes had won four straight in the series prior to its last two losses.
BYU: The Cougars got beaten up last week. Star tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a knee sprain in the fourth quarter and cornerback Andrew Rich was shaken up by a hard hit in the second half and didn’t return. Defensive back Brandon Howard had a fourth quarter interception. The day before the game linebacker Shawn Doman suffered an appendicitis attack and missed the trip after surgery; Matt Ah You started in his place. Guard Ray Feinga missed most of the Air Force game with back spasms. In better news, junior receiver Austin Collie’s streak of 100-yard games is up to nine. He’s even being used as a runner, gaining 15 yards after taking his first direct snap of the season.
Utah: The Utes remain at No. 7 in the latest BCS rankings, just behind USC and ahead of Penn State. The win at SDSU, in which they converted 13-of-14 third downs, clinched at least a share of the MWC championship. A win could mean either the Orange or Fiesta Bowls, but a loss to the Cougars would likely mean the Poinsettia Bowl. Utah’s 12-game win streak is tied for longest in the nation with Alabama and Texas Tech.
BYU has to … have a defensive plan for the final couple of minutes, a time when the Utes have pulled out three of their biggest wins this season. The Cougars nearly collapsed during money time in games at Washington, against UNLV and at Colorado State. They survived each, but needed a controversial call to hold off the Huskies and an end zone interception to stop the Rebels. Defensively, the Cougars have to get to Utah QB Brian Johnson. The Ute offensive line is mediocre in pass protection and BYU has to take advantage.
Utah has to … use its athleticism to spread out the Cougars defenders and outrun them. Defensively, the secondary should have a decided advantage over the BYU receivers much like it did against TCU, but whether the defensive line can generate similar pressure is a question mark. Getting the running game going early on will be vital. BYU has a good defensive front, but it can be pounded on. Colorado State bruiser Gartrell Johnson went over 100 yards in BYU’s close 45-42 win over the Rams. Utah will start battering away from the start.
Keep an eye on … Utah wide receiver Freddie Brown. He has become the main threat in a fast and athletic receiving corps that should give BYU fits. Over the last two weeks, the senior has caught 20 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
The number to know: 14 -- The number of years since both teams have been ranked when they met, a 34-31 Utah victory. BYU was ranked 20th at the time while Utah was 21st.
And the winner is … Utah 23 … BYU 20

Air Force (8-3) at TCU (9-2) 1:30 pm
--The Falcons close a second-straight solid season after giving BYU a strong first half in their 38-24 loss last week. The defense was torched for 477 yards, including 356 through the air. It was the first time the defense was overwhelmed this season, but the Falcons are bowl-bound no matter what. Currently entrenched as the Mountain West’s No. 4 team, Air Force can potentially finish in a tie for second if it beats TCU and if BYU loses to Utah.
--The Horned Frogs are coming off a bye week to sit and stew over the last-second 13-10 loss to Utah. Even with the defeat, they still have a chance to tie for the Mountain West title by beating Air Force and getting a BYU win over Utah. If the Utes win, TCU will probably goes to San Diego’s Poinsettia Bowl. With the nation’s No. 1 defense, led by a brick wall of a run D that’s allowing a mere 39.45 yards per game, and with time to prepare, this game is a great matchup for the Horned Frogs.
Air Force: Freshman quarterback Tim Jefferson was ineffective for the first time since he took over the starting job last month, gaining just 98 yards against BYU on 20 passing attempts and throwing an interception. He ran for 72 yards, but 45 came on one carry. Safety Chris Thomas, who had been battling injuries, had a career-high 17 tackles, a sack and fumble recovery against BYU. Offensive guard Peter Lusk sprained his ankle but returned to the game. Linebacker Patrick Hennessey’s shoulder kept him out of the lineup against BYU, while his replacemtn, Andre Moore, had six tackles.
TCU: Fans have already had a scare with the Gary Patterson-to-Kansas State rumors that didn’t pan out. Athletic Director Danny Morrison has said Patterson should be on everyone’s short list. The flu went through the team last week, hitting offensive lineman Nic Richmond among others. Running back Joseph Turner, who missed the loss at Utah with a knee injury, has been practicing. WR Jeremy Kerley has returned from his shoulder injury and is close to 100%.
Air Force has to … find a way to keep TCU quarterback Andy Dalton from making big plays through the air, since they’ll be spending most of their energy trying to stop the Horned Frogs running game. Dalton isn’t a bomber, but he’s been efficient at times and can be the difference between a close game and a blowout, as BYU found out. The Air Force secondary has been solid, mostly because few teams have tested it.
TCU has to … play strong and physical, just like BYU did. Jerry Hughes and the defensive front have the potential to stop the Air Force running game before it gets started. If the line is making plays in the backfield early on, the linebackers should be able to tee off on anything going wide. There’s no threat of an Air Force passing game, so the safeties should be able to cheat up all game long.
Keep an eye on … TCU safety Stephen Hodge, who is second on the team with 53.5 tackles, including seven for loss and two sacks. The Air Force offense puts pressure on opposing safeties, so this is a big test for one of the best players on the nation’s top-ranked defense.
The number to know: 39 -- The number of wins for TCU’s senior class. That’s just a game short of the school record for a four-year period set from 1932-35.
And the winner is … TCU 31 … Air Force 14