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BYU vs. UConn
BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae is accountable for his work, I'll say that. Since he returned to Provo in 2013 after two years on Arizona's staff, Anae has appeared in the postgame news conference after nearly every loss while never asking to be interviewed immediately following a win.
Anae's willingness to speak after last Saturday's 31-0 loss at Michigan impressed me, although there was not much to say about the Cougars' worst offensive performance in 41 years. Connecticut's defense is not at Michigan's level, but Anae undoubtedly had to work hard to restore the offense's confidence in advance of Friday night's game in Provo.
BYU's season-opening, 35-10 win at UConn in 2014 was a showcase for quarterback Taysom Hill. The rematch will be an intriguing game for freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum, who did a good job of dealing with success in September and now has to overcome the tough times specifically, a 55-yard passing day at Michigan as he moves into October.
It won't help that BYU's top running backs are bothered by injuries. So this may not be the week when Anae is able to take pressure off Mangum, as he wants to do. The Cougar receivers will have to do a better job of getting open against UConn, after Mangum's longest completion against Michigan was a 14-yarder to Devon Blackmon via a pass that went through a defender's hands.
Aside from FCS member Wagner's visit, BYU's October is shaping up as more difficult than it previously appeared. American Athletic Conference members UConn, East Carolina and Cincinnati are decent teams. The Cougars won't get a lot of credit for going 4-0 this month, but it won't be that easy. The pick: BYU 28, UConn 21.
Utah State vs. Colorado State
These teams' two meetings as Mountain West members have produced low scores, so anything other than a defensive struggle would be unexpected Saturday night in Utah State's homecoming game. Last October, the Aggies already were missing quarterback Chuckie Keeton, and then they lost Darell Garretson early in the third quarter of a 16-13 defeat at Colorado State.
That development meant Kent Myers was promoted to No. 2. Following another injury, he would become the starter two weeks later and go 5-1 the rest of the season, losing only to Boise State. He's now the No. 1 quarterback, with Keeton expected to miss about four games with a sprained knee. As I've pointed out, Myers will face tougher opponents than last year in his fill-in assignment. USU's biggest issue against CSU last October was being unable to sustain any consistent running game, with Garretson and Craig Harrison as the quarterbacks. Myers may help in that regard, with his multidimensional skills.
USU's Matt Wells did some of his best coaching after an open date last year, developing an outstanding game plan for Garretson and the offense against BYU. Wells and new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel need to make the most of some self-study, after the Aggies have posted a high of 17 points in the first three games.
The Aggies' pass defense was vulnerable at Washington two weeks ago and will have to contend with Rashard Higgins, CSU's great receiver. Last year's game seemingly was headed to overtime before Higgins caught a 46-yard pass that led to the Rams' winning field goal.
Add it all up, and this looks like another tough, close game between USU and CSU. Two weeks of preparation should help the Aggies. The pick: Utah State 21, Colorado State 17.