The random thoughts of a man constantly staving off hypothermia and wolves.
04 September 2009
I've put this off long enough. Here is my take on the BYU-Oklahoma game:
The biggest single factor in this game is Max Hall. I know what I'm getting out of Bradford. I know what I'm getting out of our defense to some extent. The same goes for Oklahoma's defense. But I have no idea what to expect from Max.
I admit his performances against TCU and Utah last season caused me to look very hard at the guy... how can someone who throws for so many yards and so many touchdowns and so few interceptions have such an epic meltdown against the two biggest opponents he faced in 2008?
I've decided that 2008 Max Hall did not have the tools he needed to succeed against those teams. Hall's arm strength, decision making and accuracy were not good. "But!" you say. "He passed for 3,957 yards last season! He was 19th in the nation for total offense!"
This is true. But I've gone back and watched a few games from the 2008 season. Hall was bailed out by Dennis Pitta and Austin Collie an awful lot. These guys are for real, and have legit NFL-caliber talent. If Hall threw behind Pitta in the endzone, he adjusted to the ball and made a spectacular catch. If Hall lobbed a duck at Collie, he went to the ball and beat the corner for it.
Hall's lack of arm strength is most apparent. John Beck's arm strength was never in question; as a sophomore, he was launching bombs to Todd Watkins and Collie (who had beaten the coverage) and placing the ball directly in their hands as they ran at full speed. How many of those plays have we seen from Hall? I honestly cannot think of any.
Therefore, most of the long touchdown passes we see from him are the result of YAC. Collie makes a great grab on the sideline 20 yards past the line of scrimmage and beats his guy to the endzone.
I believe opposing defenses know about Hall's lack of arm strength and play their guys up. Against teams like CSU or San Diego State, this is not a problem. Hall is fairly accurate within 10-15 yards or so, and the aforementioned Pitta and Collie can make grabs even in double coverage. Add dumping the ball off the Unga in there and you can rack up tons of yards against mediocre defenses.
But the TCU's and Utah's of the world have athletes. They have great defensive coordinators. They know Hall's tendencies and work hard at taking away the easy throws. Result? Interceptions by the shovelful and Hall is utterly ineffective.
Beck faced this scenario against TCU in 2006. The Horned Frogs took away the easy passes and dared Beck to make the tough ones: across the field to a receiver just in bounds, or in a quickly closing window between two corners and a linebacker. Beck came to play and made the throws. 2008 Hall couldn't do that, and the results were clear.
Now, John Beck was not 2006 John Beck his entire career. He had to evolve as a player through learning defenses, developing rapport with his receivers and practicing his tail off. He struggled a lot his sophomore and junior years, but at the end of 2006, I'd rank Beck up there with any of the BYU greats that have come through Provo. He was a machine, and thoroughly dismantled every opponent he came up against in the last nine games he played as a college quarterback. It got boring to watch because of how easily he was able to move the ball on teams like Oregon or Utah... not to mention Air Force or Wyoming.
So I hold out hope that Max has improved a lot this offseason. I hope he's realized his flaws and worked hard to improve. Because if not, this game will be an embarrassment. I have no illusions that BYU's defense will be able to shut down Bradford. That guy is nails, but I believe BYU's defense will be able to hold him in check... ie. Oklahoma won't score a touchdown on their every possession.
That leaves open a very small window where a BYU offense that is absolutely on fire can take advantage. And that kind of offense needs a quarterback who is performing on another level of awesome. Awesome like Detmer vs. Miami in 1990 or Sarkisian vs. Texas A&M in 1996. Stuff of legends.
If Hall can be the man, I give BYU a shot at winning this game with an old WAC score of 56-52 or something else ridiculous. If Hall is completely ineffectual, BYU gets blown out.
To me, it's that simple.
It's a tough opening game for your 2009 season, but the potential is there for an historic year, the kind we'll tell our kids about.
I'm a graduate from BYU-Idaho with a degree in Communications with a print journalism emphasis. I currently work as a test engineer for a software company. I've been married for seven years and have three kids.