Tech’s new-look defense must be opportunistic and get pressure on BYU quarterback Riley Nelson. BYU is eleventh-worst in the nation in allowing sacks, and the Tech front seven must use this to their advantage and force Nelson into ill-advised throws. The Jackets have had trouble wrapping up the ball carrier in recent games and will also need to improve in that area in order to win.
The Jackets’ offense will face its toughest task of the season in BYU’s defense. Senior quarterback Tevin Washington will look for running room for himself on most plays. He leads the team in rushing yards per game with 67 as well as attempts per game with 15.9. He has also scored 15 touchdowns on the ground this year and will be a tough force for the Cougars to stop.
Washington’s main pitch man on option plays will be senior running back Orwin Smith, while sophomore running back Zach Laskey figures to get most of the carries up the middle. Freshman quarterback Vad Lee is likely to take some snaps; he can be a threat with both his arm and legs. Lee has thrown two touchdowns this year and has rushed for four more in limited action.
BYU’s offense will have to produce points and take better care of the football in order to win this game. They had a tough October schedule, playing three of the top 20 scoring defenses in the nation and scoring only five touchdowns in those three games.
The Cougars are No. 89 in the nation overall in scoring at just 24 points per game. Quarterback Riley Nelson hopes to get back on track after missing time with a back injury; he has thrown eight interceptions in the last three games he has played. His main targets will be junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman and junior tight end Kaneakua Friel, who have combined for 893 yards and eight touchdowns this year. Freshman running back Jamaal Williams figures to get most of the team’s carries.
One interesting matchup to watch will be how well the Cougars’ front seven can slow down the Jackets’ triple option attack. This unit is led by defensive captain Brandon Ogletree, a senior linebacker who leads the team in tackles and excels at stopping the run. As a team, BYU allows only 93 rushing yards per game, which ranks No. 8 in the nation. However, last week they gave up 270 yards on the ground to Notre Dame. They are also No. 8 in points per game allowed with 14 and sit at No. 4 in total defense, surrendering just 277 yards per game.
The Cougars come in to Atlanta this weekend at an even 4-4 record after dropping two straight to top-10 teams in No. 10 Oregon State and No. 5 Notre Dame. BYU struggled at home against Oregon State, giving up six touchdowns to the Beavers in a 42-27 loss, followed by a tight defensive battle against the Fighting Irish in South Bend that Notre Dame won 17-14. This will be BYU’s second trip to Tech in the program’s history; the first was a 28-19 Tech victory in 2002.
Score prediction: Tech 27, BYU 24