BYU Football: To All Heisman Hopefuls — Don’t Play BYU

BYU Football

To all the Heisman Trophy hopefuls out there, pray that you don’t have to play BYU.

For the second consecutive week, the 20th-ranked BYU football team put on another impressive defensive performance as the Cougars not only held McNeese State to just 3 points, but went on the road and knocked off then-No. 6 Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium. The Cougars did so by holding highly-touted running back and Heisman Trophy hopeful Jonathan Taylor to his worst performance of the season.

After racking up 398 yards and five touchdowns during his first two games, many expected Taylor to continue the trend against BYU behind three preseason All-American offensive lineman. A number of analysts predicted that Wisconsin would be in the playoff this year behind their star-studded offensive line. Yet, just like what happened with Arizona’s Khalil Tate, the Cougars shut them down.

Will BYU be able to keep the trend going against one of the top dynamic players in the country in Washington’s Myles Gaskin? I believe so and here’s why.

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Arizona – Khalil Tate

Tate, who came in averaging 9.2 yards per carry last year and who led the Wildcats to an average of 40.9 points and 485.3 yards per game as the starter, couldn’t do much against a Cougar defense that turned the Wildcats’ home opener into a big meltdown in a 28-23 loss.

Tate totaled just 211 yards of total offense and was held to just 14 yards rushing on eight carries for a measly 1.8 yards per carry. Tate came in with all the hype as he set a Pac-12 record as he was named the offensive player of the week for four consecutive weeks. Tate also set an FBS record as he became the first quarterback to rush for more than 300 yards last year.

But after playing BYU, Tate’s Heisman dreams are all but over.

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Wisconsin – Jonathan Taylor  

Leading up to the game against BYU, sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor saw his Heisman Trophy stock soar after a 45-14 win over New Mexico.

The 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back set a career-high against he Lobos with 253 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first time since Melvin Gordon that a Badgers running back finished with at least 250 yards.

So after his first two games to open the season, Taylor had racked up 398 yards and five touchdowns, while also averaging an impressive 7.8 yards per carry.

Coming into the BYU game, Taylor was fifth in the Heisman betting odds (+1000). However, after the Cougars held him to just 4.5 yards per carry and no touchdowns, Taylor saw his Heisman stock drop.

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Is Washington’s Myles Gaskin Next?

He is one of the most dynamic football players in the nation. Myles Gaskin, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound running back/receiver has already become one of the all-time greats at Washington as the senior has set records, and is on track to set even more by the end of the season.

This year, Gaskin became the school’s all-time leading rusher, moving past Napoleon Kaufman, who had held the record since 1994. Coming into the ASU game last week, Gaskin ranked No. 6 in Pac-12 history with with 4,412 yards. The senior also scored his 51th career touchdown against Utah to extend his school record and his 47 career rushing touchdowns puts him No. 8 in Pac-12 history.

However, as BYU has shown this year, the Cougars have knack for shutting down Heisman Trophy candidates and look to keep the trend going against Washington. So far this year, the Cougar defense has held each of its opponents to less than 24 points per game. BYU ranks No. 23 overall in scoring defense (17.0 ppg) and No. 28 in total defense (328.3 ypg) despite facing some explosive offenses and high-profile players.

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The numbers are even better considering the Cougars always have such a front-loaded schedule and have played one of the toughest schedules to date so far this season with the likes of Arizona, Cal and Wisconsin.

While BYU is primarily in the standard 4-3 front, the Cougars have shown they will adjust their defense to the type of team they will be facing. Against Arizona they used a lot of the 3-3-5 package and against Wisconsin and Cal they ran a 4-2-5 and 4-3 defense.

The strength of the Cougar defense is its front 7 with the likes of Khyiris Tonga, Trajan Pili and Corbin Kaufusi up front, with star-studded linebackers in Butch Pau’u, Sione Takitaki cleaning up in the backfield.

In the video against Arizona, you can see that Tonga controlled the entire line of scrimmage as he drove lineman deep into the backfield. Because he draws a lot of double teams, that allows others like Zayne Anderson, Dayan Ghanwoloku and Adam Pulsipher to have a clean look at the quarterback and running back and to make big plays.

Based on how the Cougars have played this year not only is it an easy choice to take the Cougars and the points — regarding the 17-point spread on the game — but don’t be surprised to see the Cougars give Gaskin all kinds of fits and give the senior his worst game of the season.

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