27 September 2012

Hawaii at BYU

Hawaii has a terrible defense, surrendering 49 points to a less-impressive-than-previously-thought USC in Week 1, and 69 points to Nevada in Week 3.

Their offense is also less than stellar, scoring 10 and 24 points each in the aforementioned games.

In a regular season, BYU should easily be able to roll this team, especially since it is in Provo.

But this year? A year in which Bronco is seriously considering starting Riley Nelson at quarterback tomorrow? One week after Nelson recorded a negative passer rating in Boise? A week after rumors came out that Nelson is dealing with severe back troubles? A week after Riley said he's probably lie to the coaches if they asked him if he thought he was healthy enough to play?

It says a lot about my current mindset that I believe even with BYU's fairly dominant defense and Hawaii's anemic offense, the Cougars could still easily lose tomorrow night of Riley Nelson is getting most of the snaps.

Now, do I believe Taysom Hill is the next Ty Detmer? Not really. I see Taysom as a healthier, more talented Riley; someone who can run effectively and pass less than effectively. But with BYU's defense, even a less effective passing QB should score enough points to win tomorrow.

All I want is a quarterback who can make every throw on the field with some consistency. The last one BYU has had was John Beck, and that was six years ago now. The Cougars have recruited and gotten a lot of big arms in the last few years (Heaps, Munns), and either these kids are busts or the coaching staff have had no idea how to develop them. There are some big names coming to BYU (Tanner Mangum, Billy Green), and I hope they can work out. Because this pattern of mediocre quarterbacks starting for the Cougars is becoming a trend.

My prediction: BYU 24, Hawaii 10. Nelson is given a short leash and Hill is able to do enough to get the win.

Combating the flop

Flopping is a big deal in the NBA. I hate it with a fiery passion, and think it demeans a game I otherwise love.

In the past, I have suggested the NBA implement a one-game suspension for flopping. Officials review game tape after the fact, and if there is an instance of egregious flopping, a suspension is handed out, the end.

From there, more flops equal stiffer penalties. Five flops? Two games. 10 flops? 3 games. And so on.

This was my idea four years ago.

Thankfully, David Stern has decided to at least pay lip service to the idea of eradicating this disease. He's announced that the NBA will begin fining players for flopping, and the determination as to what is a flop and what is not will be made after the game.

So I go one for two. I don't think fines will do enough to deter flopping unless the amounts are exorbitant. Manu Ginobili will flop in a heartbeat if he thinks it will help his team win a game, no matter that he'll be $10,000 poorer the next day.

Maybe a $10,000 hit is enough to deter rookies from flopping, but they aren't getting the benefit of those calls anyway.

We'll see if this changes anything. I fear this new directive will go the way of the microfiber ball and be forgotten very soon.

23 September 2012

I kinda hate Matt

You've probably seen a previous incarnation of the above video, in which a surname-less Matt is dancing with people in presumably every country on earth. The songs are catchy, the video moves well and it's a good time had by all.

They are the product of Matt Harding, a 35-year-old former video game designer who, since around 2003, has been traveling around the world making videos like these and uploading them to Youtube. Having garnered sponsorship from companies like Visa and Stride Gum, he's been able to do one of these every few years since, and the 2012 version is his fifth. He even went to Madagascar in his 2008 video.

Why do I hate this man, who appears to have a beautiful wife and baby and exists solely to bring the world together? Mainly because I'm petty and wish I could travel as much as he does.

But seriously, this is awesome.

21 September 2012

Where have I seen this before?


The starting quarterback struggles mightily, showing difficulty scoring points and even completing passes.

In the fourth quarter, BYU's coaching staff decides to bench the starter and bring in the backup. The backup engineers a 95-yard drive, mostly on the strength of a few runs and some iffy-looking passes, and punches it into the endzone in dramatic fashion.

This is where the similarities end, as Quarterback A won his game, while Quarterback B did not.

But it's eerie, right?

Another difference: Coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Riley Nelson would start the next game after his heroics against Utah State last fall, while the same Coach Mendenhall has announced Riley Nelson, this time the disgraced starter, will start the next game again over freshman backup Taysom Hill.

Why? I can explain it only by assuming Bronco loves Riley's heart and grit, which are admirable.

But if heart and grit were all you needed to be a college football star, Rudy would be a Heisman winner.

As I wrote in November,

[Riley is] enough to beat bad teams, will never, ever be the reason BYU beat a great team, or even a very good team. His throwing ability has improved this season from last, but he still has low arm strength and extremely questionable decision-making skills.

Not much has changed, sadly. There are rumors that he has a back injury, but even healthy, Nelson was never the guy to lead BYU to the next level.

And even injured, it takes a special quarterback to deliver a -4.8 quarterback rating during a nationally televised ESPN game.

I liked what I saw from Taysom. I'd love to see his passing improve, but he's a better runner than Nelson has ever been. He's quicker, faster and stronger, and he has better ability to make guys miss. None of his completed passes were particularly pretty, but he had some zip on the ball, and I think his misses can be corrected.

His touchdown run, where he dragged three defenders into the endzone? A thing of beauty.

In other news, Bronco's decision to go for a two-point conversion last night has drawn a lot of ire from fans.

And in the context of trying to win the game, they are 100 percent right.

But in the context of the long-term future of BYU? Not as much.

Consider this scenario. You have a freshman quarterback who has seen limited time on the field this season. He has just engineered a potentially game-winning drive on the road, against a good defensive team.

You tell Tayom, "Son, go out there and win us this game. You have one play to determine success or failure; go succeed."

And you sit back and watch.

Will he implode under the pressure? Will he panic?

Or will he run right, keeping his eyes on the endzone while forcing defenders to account for his ability to scramble, and throw a dart to an open BYU receiver?

Sure, a Bronco linebacker made a super-impressive play to stretch out and tip that pass, but the play was solid.

The play showed me what I want to know about Hill. Is he afraid of the big moment? No sir. Will he wilt under pressure? Nope. If he can develop the passing ability to keep defenses from keying in on his running, he'll be a good one at BYU.

And learning that meant more to me than getting a meaningless win at Boise State on a Thursday night in September.

So please, Bronco. Start Taysom next week. Start him every game this season. You may lose some games you might have won with Riley. It doesn't matter. This season is the Poinsettia Bowl, or worse, for this Cougar team. Give Hill the time and reps he needs to be a special player in 2013. Give him the experience to be ready when Texas and Utah and Notre Dame come to Provo next fall.

Help 2013 be the best season it can be by sacrificing your love for Riley Nelson.


19 September 2012

BYU vs. Boise State: A Rivalry?

Steve Conner/Icon SMI

BYU plays at Boise State tomorrow night.

On first glance, to a college football fan who doesn't really follow either team closely, this looks like a great matchup.

The Broncos have amassed a 74-7 record under head coach Chris Petersen over the last seven years. They've received an invite to the Big East and will be joining the BCS conference in 2013.

BYU has had five 10-win seasons over the last six years and managed to pull off a great TV deal with ESPN.

Two storied programs, right? Two juggernauts of the non-BCS faction in college football, battling to prove who's better.

BYU is 2-1, losing a close heartbreaker to PAC-12 rival Utah.

Boise lost a nail-biter to #13-ranked Michigan State in Week 1, while putting up 40 against Miami (OH) on Saturday.

And the two teams will meet for 12 straight seasons starting tomorrow, establishing what many think will become a rivalry.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN, and no doubt many people are expecting a high-scoring, exciting matchup.

Let's just say I don't see it happening that way. This BYU offense is not good. They could not run up the middle against Weber State. They struggled to get anything going for three quarters against a Utah team missing three fixtures on defense.

If Boise's defense is any good, and holding the Spartans to 17 points indicates it is, they'll stack the box, assign someone to stick to Riley and dare him to beat them deep. (P.S. this is what good defenses have done to both Riley and Max Hall for the last six years.)

If Riley can take advantage of this and consistently find Hoffman and Apo (4 catches for 31 yards in three games), then Boise will be forced to adjust and I like the Cougars' chances.

If not, it's going to be a long night for the offense.

The good news is that BYU's defense is the stoutest it's been since 2006. I didn't like either of the TD passes they gave up to Hays on Saturday (both not particularly well-thrown balls), but overall the secondary is good, the defensive line is strong and the linebackers are scary.

Prediction: BYU 17, BSU 20.

17 September 2012

8 of the last 11

The Daily Herald

Is it really a rivalry when one team has only won the game three times in the last 11 years?

BYU came out scared and flat, as they always do versus Utah, and it hurt them a lot. By the time they pulled it together, it was too late, and not even the MUSS gifting the Cougars a relatively easy field goal to tie as time expired was enough.

As I've written time and time before, Riley Nelson is fool's gold. He will never been the kind of quarterback to destroy good defenses. Even in his senior season, with almost two full years of starting at the position, he can't make more than a handful of throws consistently. He can't read defenses. His running okay, I guess, but not something opposing defensive coordinators fear.

Give the reins to Taysom. This season is a loss, anyway. He may turn out to be another bust like Heaps (who I still believe can be great at Kansas), but Riley is the bus to Nowheresville. I made the same argument in favor of Heaps last season, and it holds true this season. Give Hill a lot of reps in the games against Boise State, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. Give him starts against Idaho and San Jose State. The more real-world time he gets on the field this season, the better he'll be in years 2, 3 and 4. And if he's terrible, I'd at least like to know now.

The winner of our Guess the Score contest is Matt Bat Head, who eerily predicted

"24-21 BYU-Sorenson comes back and kicks a 60 yard field goal as time expires. Hoffman goes for 85 yards."

The last play of the game certainly was a field goal, and the final score was indeed 24-21.

Hoffman ended the night with 120 yards receiving.

Matt, your check is in the mail.

13 September 2012

12 September 2012

Holy War, 2012 edition

Video courtesy BYUTV 

Once again it's September, and once again it feels way too early to be gearing up for a BYU-Utah showdown on the gridiron. I miss the days when this game often meant the difference between a conference championship and finishing third, but there's still plenty of emotion and anticipation as far as I'm concerned.

Who'd have thought at this time last year that we'd be going into the 2012 matchup with two different starting quarterbacks? Both Jake Heaps and Utah QB Jordan Wynn are done with football at the schools they started with; Heaps is now at Kansas (sitting out a year, as per NCAA transfer regulations) and Wynn announced his retirement from the sport yesterday.

In Heaps' place is Utah State transfer and pretty boy extraordinaire, Riley Nelson, while Wynn has handed the reins to Jon Hays, a senior who was never good enough to beat Wynn on the depth chart.

Let's just say neither of these guys are world-beaters. After Wynn was injured during the Utah State game last week, Hays came in and completed 12 of his 26 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in the loss. From the highlights, he has a kinda weird sidearm delivery and doesn't seem terribly accurate. I don't imagine he'll get much done against BYU's improved secondary.

There's a possibility we'll see a lot from Ute freshman quarterback Travis Wilson, who threw a 38-yard touchdown strike against the Aggies and sees to be pretty talented.

Utah's running game struggled against Utah State, mostly due to a poor performance by the offensive line. And word is that the Ute defense, normally very strong, is weak at linebacker and corner. Senior tackle Star Lotulelei is an NFL talent on the defensive line, but there's only so much he can do.

So while there are some concerns about BYU's own offensive line, it seems the flaws for the Cougars are not nearly as glaring as those for Utah. I feel confident about BYU's receiving corp, running backs and the entire defense.

I expect to see several trick plays from Utah (as is the pattern of the last few years), and the score to be a lot closer than my analysis so far would indicate.

BYU has been better than this in the past, and still lost to Utah teams that were pretty bad. Utah always comes out ready to play, amped up, excited, focused, while the Cougars are often timid, rattled and unable to match their opponents' intensity.

From what I've seen, Riley has no fear (for better or for worse) and inspires his teammates. On the defensive end, Kyle Van Noy is always in beast mode, and will keep the defense locked in. I expect this BYU team to show better in the first quarter than they have in the past, and the Cougars will win.

Prediction: 24-13 BYU.

As is tradition, leave your predicted score in the comments below, along with how many receiving yards Cody Hoffman will get, for a chance to win a $10 Amazon.com gift card!

Go Cougars!