NCF Nation: Taysom Hill

Video: Hill breaks leg in BYU loss

October, 4, 2014
Oct 4
2:28
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BYU quarterback Taysom Hill suffered a fractured left leg in the second quarter of the No. 18 Cougars' 35-20 loss to Utah State.

Taysom Hill suffers left leg fracture

October, 4, 2014
Oct 4
1:40
AM ET
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Taysom Hill, the star quarterback for No. 18 BYU and a Heisman Trophy hopeful, suffered a left leg fracture during the team's game against Utah State on Friday night in Provo, Utah, school officials said.

Hill's left leg was rolled under by a tackler during a second-quarter run. He limped off the field before being carted away to the locker room.

The school said further tests would be carried out later Friday.

To continue reading this story, click here.

ACC viewer's guide: Week 4

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
8:00
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The best day of the week is finally here. Is the best league game of the year here as well? Probably. Here's a primer on all of the action throughout the day. Be sure to follow along on Twitter with all of the hashtags below.

Noon

Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech, ESPN, #GTvsVT: The Yellow Jackets have gotten to 3-0 in the most wayward of fashions. The Hokies are coming off a home loss to East Carolina, one week after upsetting a top-10 Ohio State team on the road. Could their trouble be on defense? Brandon Facyson has been playing hurt all season, sure, but Virginia Tech has surrendered 22 plays of 20 yards or more this season, fourth-most in the nation and half its total from last season (44). The big-play threat might not exactly be there with Georgia Tech, but as Jared Shanker noted this week, the visitors do bring with them a knack for converting third downs. Virginia Tech has won the past four games in this matchup.

Iowa at Pittsburgh, ESPNU, #IOWAvsPITT: Third-year Panthers coach Paul Chryst hosts a familiar foe this weekend, as he faced the Hawkeyes six times while he was offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, going 3-3. Pitt is looking for its first 4-0 start since 2000, and it will likely turn to the nation's leading rusher, James Conner, to try to get there, despite Iowa's stingy run defense (No. 7 nationally). Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, by the way, will experience a homecoming of sorts, as he went to Upper St. Clair High in Pittsburgh.

12:30 p.m.

Maryland at Syracuse, 12:30, ESPN3, #MDvsCUSE: The Terrapins are in their first year away from the "basketball" conference that is the ACC, as coach Randy Edsall said this summer, and the Big Ten newcomers will look to avenge last year's 20-3 home loss to the Orange, which came without receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Syracuse, meanwhile, looked like a new team in last week's 40-3 win at Central Michigan, as it came off a bye and had quarterback Terrel Hunt back running the show on offense. Syracuse is looking to get to 3-0 for the first time since 1991, which would provide a big boost to a team that will embark on a difficult three-week stretch against Notre Dame, Louisville and Florida State.

Tulane at Duke, ESPN3, #TULNvsDUKE: Has there been a more overlooked team than Duke recently? All the Blue Devils have done is take care of business, coming off a 10-win, division-title season and starting 3-0 this season in methodical fashion (albeit against bad competition). In any event, the unranked Blue Devils close their nonconference slate against American Athletic Conference newcomer Tulane, which is no stranger to the ACC this season, having lost to Georgia Tech two weeks ago. Here's one interesting stat surrounding Duke quarterback Anthony Boone, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information: The Blue Devils have lost yardage on just three percent of Boone's snaps, the lowest percentage of any Power Five quarterback with at least 150 plays.

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesTyler Murphy and Boston College hope to avoid a letdown after their upset of USC when they face FCS Maine on Saturday.
1 p.m.

Maine at Boston College, ESPN3, #MEvsBC: It's all about avoiding a letdown this week in Chestnut Hill, where the Eagles produced one of the young season's greatest upsets last weekend against USC. The Black Bears should hardly pose a huge challenge to BC, which, with Tyler Murphy under center, has been able to stretch the field much more than last season, even if the run game is still its bread and butter. Murphy leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards this season with 401, 40 more yards than he has tallied passing the ball (361).

3:30 p.m.

Louisville at FIU, Fox Sports 1: The Cardinals are looking to rebound from their first defeat of the second Bobby Petrino era, while the Golden Panthers welcome their second straight ACC foe to Miami. FIU gave Pitt a handful last week before the Panthers pulled away, but Louisville will probably not be so kind coming off the loss at Virginia. Louisville beat FIU 72-0 a year ago, and while there are plenty of new faces, quarterback Will Gardner will try to bounce back after getting pulled a week ago. His offensive line will look to get its act together as well.

Virginia at No. 21 BYU, ESPN, #UVAvsBYU: Speaking of the Cavaliers, they should serve as one of the toughest tests the Cougars face all season, as the home team has the best chance of anyone in the nation at running the regular-season table (21.7 percent, per ESPN's FPI). We'll see just how good this Virginia defense really is after strong showings through the first three weeks, as BYU quarterback Taysom Hill and his home field will be a handful to handle. Virginia beat BYU last year in the season opener, one of just two games it won all season.

Army at Wake Forest, ESPN3, #ARMYvsWAKE: The Demon Deacons' defense has actually been pretty good through three games despite a 1-2 record. And while the offense showed signs of life late in last week's loss at Utah State, it cannot afford to give away points, and it would help to develop some form of a ground game. The Black Knights were shut out last week at Stanford. They also boast, at this point, the nation's slowest offense at 31.1 seconds per play, according to data from ESPN Stats & Info.

North Carolina at East Carolina, ESPNU, #UNCvsECU: The Pirates came awfully close to beating a South Carolina team that is probably better than we initially gave it credit for, and they went into Blacksburg, Virginia, last week and took down the Hokies. Now they get the Tar Heels in a rematch of last year's 55-31 ECU rout in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have looked underwhelming through two games, and they will be without starting guard Landon Turner. But their offense is still capable of putting plenty of points on the board, and this is a team that certainly has not forgotten about the way it was embarrassed by the Pirates last season. A shootout between Marquise Williams and Shane Carden could be on the horizon. And given UNC's upcoming slate -- at Clemson, Virginia Tech, at Notre Dame -- it better hope it can keep up this time around before league play starts. One thing to keep in mind: With Brian Walker's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown two weeks ago at San Diego State, UNC now has 10 non-offensive touchdowns since last season, according to ESPN Stats & Info. That is tied with North Texas for the second-best mark in the nation during that span, trailing only Florida State's 11.

6 p.m.

Presbyterian at NC State, ESPN3, #PREvsNCSU: The Wolfpack's laughable nonconference slate concludes, and a win here would make them 4-0 after a disappointing 3-9 mark last season. Still, it should do wonders for a young team looking to go bowling in Dave Doeren's second year at the helm, especially if it can replicate its dominant performance from last week at USF. Like its rival in Chapel Hill, NC State needs to do itself a favor, with back-to-back games against FSU and Clemson awaiting in the next two weeks to open conference play. As David Hale notes, quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been invaluable so far for the Pack, leading the ACC in touchdowns and yards and second only to Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas in passer rating.

8 p.m.

Miami at No. 24 Nebraska, ESPN2, #MIAvsNEB: Andrea Adelson and Mitch Sherman did a wonderful job recapping some of the great matchups between these old rivals. What might be the difference at Memorial Stadium, however, is the ground game. Duke Johnson has rushed for at least 90 yards in each of his past five games dating back to last season, while Ameer Abdullah has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in 12 of his past 14 games and has tallied more than 100 yards from scrimmage in 16 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation. The ACC is 6-3 against the Cornhuskers in the past nine meetings, though the Hurricanes are just 1-6 in their past seven games against AP-ranked teams, with an average point margin of minus-22.4.

8 p.m.

No. 22 Clemson at No. 1 Florida State, ABC, #CLEMvsFSU: Here's the matchup we've all been waiting for, but it won't include Jameis Winston. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner will sit out the entire game, the school announced late Friday, after reportedly making profane remarks in public. It will be Sean Maguire's turn to run the show. Maguire has not started a game since Nov. 12, 2011, his senior year at Seton Hall Prep (New Jersey). Coach Jimbo Fisher is 3-1 against Clemson since arriving in Tallahassee, but the lower-ranked team has won two of the past three meetings. The Tigers, meanwhile, are 0-4 all time against AP No. 1 teams, with the last such game coming in the 1999 "Bowden Bowl I" against FSU, a 17-14 Seminoles win. Coming into this contest, ESPN's FPI ranks Clemson 19th, FSU 2nd, and it gives the Seminoles a 77 percent chance to win.

Hill, BYU have chance at perfect mark

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
12:17
PM ET

Quarterback Taysom Hill has helped BYU average 38.0 points in its first two games.
After BYU's demolition of Texas in Week 2 - the Longhorns’ worst home loss since 1997 - the Cougars jumped from 24th to 15th in ESPN's Football Power Index.

The Cougars now have the best chance to enter the bowl season undefeated, according to FPI, thanks to their 75th-ranked remaining schedule.

BYU’s toughest remaining game, according to FPI, is at Boise State on Oct. 24, in which the Cougars have a 72 percent chance to beat the Broncos.

With quarterback Taysom Hill at the helm combined with a manageable remaining schedule, the Cougars might just be a sleeper for the playoff.

Hill might be the player who most resembles the idea of a “dual-threat quarterback” in college football.

He began as a situational player when he returned from his LDS mission to Sydney, Australia, in 2012. But since he took over as starter in 2013, he has been a pleasant surprise for the Cougars.

Making plays in the ground game
Hill is best-known for making big plays with his feet. His career average of 89.3 rush yards per game ranks third among FBS quarterbacks in the last 10 seasons.

Last season, Hill finished with six 100-yard rushing games, tied for second-most by an FBS quarterback, and rushed for the third-most yards (1,344) in a season in BYU history. He is already BYU’s all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks.

Since the start of last season, Hill has the most rushes of at least 10 yards (69) among FBS players, 42 on designed runs. Almost half of Hill’s designed runs have been zone-read plays, on which he averages almost nine yards per rush.

Like former BYU great Steve Young, Hill has improvisation skills, as he trailed only Johnny Manziel in scramble yards per game (41.5) last season.

Hill's passing has improved
Hill’s passing game should not be overlooked. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes from inside the pocket last season; in two games (against Connecticut and Texas) this season, he has completed 78.8 percent of such passes.

Hill’s increased accuracy can be attributed to shorter passes. This season, Hill’s passes have traveled an average of 6.7 yards downfield, 3.5 yards per attempt shorter than last season. He has thrown six passes that traveled more than 15 yards downfield this season. He averaged 7.2 such passes per game in 2012.

Hill has posted a Total QBR of more than 80 in both of BYU’s games this season, one of seven qualified FBS quarterbacks to do so. This group includes Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Everett Golson and Trevor Knight. Hill had only three games with a Total QBR of at least 80 in 2012.
AUSTIN, Texas -- A perfect quarter, it was not. But it came pretty darn close.

BYU embarrassed Texas once again, this time by a 41-6 score, thanks in large part to a third-quarter run no team could've overcome. This was a perfect storm in all three phases of the game.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsBYU handed Texas' Charlie Strong the worst quarter of his coaching career.
In 26 plays, the Cougars' offense collected 199 yards, including 138 on the ground. They racked up 13 first downs and faced third down just twice. Their quarterback, Taysom Hill, accounted for 129 total yards and three scores for a near-perfect single-quarter QBR of 99.3.

A 6-0 nailbiter turned into a 34-0 thrashing in less than 11 game minutes.

The 28-point swing was one of the first things Texas coach Charlie Strong brought up in his postgame opening statement. In the past 10 years, a Strong-led defense had never allowed 28 in one quarter.

"You can't do that if you think you're going to play great defense," he said.

BYU went into halftime and made no more than three offensive adjustments, coach Bronco Mendenhall said afterward. They didn't need to tweak much. They just needed to unleash Hill.

He drove the Cougars 75 yards in three minutes to start the second half, then dropped the jaws of 90,000-plus when he hurdled diving Texas safety Dylan Haines at the end of a 30-yard touchdown scramble. Texas had roughed him up in the first half, but Hill wasn't touched on his first score to go up 13-0.

After Marcus Johnson was stuffed at his own 11-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, Texas promptly went three-and-out. BYU's offense came back went 55 yards in five plays, highlighted by Jordan Leslie's diving, juggling 27-yard snag in between a pair of Texas defensive backs. Adam Hine found the end zone on a strong stiff-arm and an 8-yard run to make it 20-0.

Texas' offense returned to brutal field position again, this time at the 7-yard line after a holding penalty. Another three-and-out. The Longhorns' first two drives of the second half produced minus-3 yards on six snaps.

William Russ' punt didn't cross midfield, and Mitch Juergens returned it to the Texas 29. Hill capped a quick seven-play drive with a 2-yard run in which he put his shoulder down and snuck around five Texas defenders. 27-0.

Can't get much worse than that, right? Just before Texas could push the panic button, Johnson got stripped on the kickoff return. BYU recovered at the Longhorns' 24-yard line.

"Even though you play short field, it doesn't matter," Strong said afterward. "Get into third down and just make a play."

But Texas' defense couldn't force third down. BYU was back on the goal line after a 12-yard pass, and Hill put the nail in the coffin with 4:33 left in the quarter, on a 1-yard keeper. 34-0. Ballgame.

Almost 50 percent of BYU's total yards Saturday came in one swift barrage. A run game held to 2.7 yards per carry the rest of the night cranked out 7.7 per rush in the quarter.

"There is no reason for it," Strong said. "You have to play better defense than that."

There are a handful of logical excuses -- field position, defensive busts, the takeaway, poor adjustments, tempo, confidence -- but another stands out: Hill is simply a phenomenal talent with a knack for burning Bevo.

"There are just some sheer athleticism things that aren't coachable," Mendenhall said.

When Hill scored to open the half, Texas needed to bounce back in a big way. It's about adversity, Strong said, and how a team handles heightened stakes. The Longhorns failed on that front in their first loss of the new coach's tenure.

"We started the game off really hard. It was the third quarter that got us," linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "Whatever it was, I'm not sure. We'll have to look at it."

That should make for one unpleasant film session. But as Texas players were reminded Saturday, after the worst quarter of Strong's head coaching career, what matters is how they respond.

BYU upset was program-changer for Texas

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
10:30
AM ET
Mack BrownAP Photo/Rick BowmerThe blowout loss to BYU racheted up the pressure on Mack Brown, who resigned after the season.
AUSTIN, Texas -- The dam broke just before 8 p.m. What ensued stunned Texas to its core and set in motion the downfall of a regime.

At that precise moment, one hour and six minutes in, Taysom Hill ran right up the middle. Five Texas defenders cleared a clean path with diving missing tackles and half-speed effort.

Hill's second touchdown dash, a 20-yarder, gave BYU a 17-14 lead. There was 7:48 left in the first half, but the game was almost over.

The Longhorns didn’t just go on to lose 40-21 that night. They’d lose their quarterback, their defensive coordinator, their next game and eventually their coaching staff. And if you ask Texas players today, they lost some dignity that fateful night in Provo, Utah.

“That’s probably the most embarrassed I’ve ever been,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said.

As receiver John Harris solemnly put it: “I think that was one of the all-time lows for us as a team in general.”

What will motivate Texas on Saturday night, when Hill and BYU visit Austin for a rematch, won’t be payback so much as pride. Charlie Strong’s staff didn’t hesitate this summer to remind players about the butt-whooping the then-No. 15 Longhorns received on Sept. 7, 2013.

“Oh man. That’s all we hear,” defensive end Cedric Reed said in July. “That’s all we hear is BYU. We’re ready to play BYU this year.”

Imagine how Strong, a defensive guru, must’ve felt the first time he popped in the game tape and watched Texas’ defense permit the school-record-torching 550 rushing yards, the 679 total yards on 99 plays, the 17 missed tackles, the 233 yards after contact.

Last month, Texas defensive tackle Desmond Jackson denounced the belief that Texas had a “soft” defense in 2013. This was the game that bolstered that reputation.

Hill’s first touchdown, a 68-yard run late in the first quarter in which three Texas defensive backs whiffed at stopping a quarterback with a knee brace, set the tone early.

“At that point, we knew we were going to win this football game,” Hill said Wednesday. “We were so geared-in and having fun. Everything just became pretty easy.”

By the time Hill crossed the 30-yard line, Mack Brown had already spiked his headset.

But Texas hung in there for the first hour. Then, finally, the fracture. A roughing the punter penalty gave BYU the ball back. Four plays later, Hill scrambled. Steve Edmond could’ve stopped him after 6 yards but dove and missed. Hill split right between Josh Turner and Mykkele Thompson. Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips slowed up as Hill neared the goal line.

“Give him a little space and he showed everybody what he’ll do with it,” Thompson said. “I have no idea how many times I’ve watched that film from last year.”

While BYU celebrated, Manny Diaz walked past Brown. The head coach shook his head.

Soon after, Brown pulled Diaz and secondary coach Duane Akina aside. Their conference lasted no longer than 20 seconds. The head coach enumerated his complaints. Akina threw up his hands and shouted. Diaz just nodded.

Maybe he knew, from there on out, his job was on the line. But BYU was just getting started: 404 total yards on 57 snaps came after Mack’s meeting.

David Ash
AP Photo/Rick BowmerThe Longhorns lost starting quarterback David Ash after he suffered a concussion.
Midway through the fourth quarter, more disaster. A helmet-to-helmet hit left David Ash squinting and down on one knee. The yearlong struggle initiated by that concussion has sidelined Ash again, perhaps for good.

The mood in the locker room afterward? Uncomfortable. The overwhelming sentiment, Harris said, was clear: Did we really just get beat this bad?

“The morning after, waking up that Sunday, you’re asking yourself, ‘Did that really just happen?” Thompson said.

At 3:30 p.m. that Sunday, Brown told the team they had a new defensive coordinator.

“We laid an egg and we lost a guy’s job. Plain and simple,” Diggs said this week. “We let those guys down. We let ourselves down.”

One year later, Texas defenders stand by a compelling belief: They liked the game plan.

“It was a good scheme,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “The big thing was missed assignments.”

Strong agreed. On BYU’s biggest gains, a Texas player freelanced, didn’t respect gaps or didn’t trust a teammate to do his own job.

“If we just eliminate those mental errors, then you have a chance to go stop them,” Strong said.

Those simple fixes made Greg Robinson successful in Diaz’s place, but the Ole Miss game was a lost cause. You can’t fly in a new coordinator from California, ask him to install his brand of defense and expect winning results in six days.

A 1-2 start raised the stakes for Brown to the point that only a Big 12 title might’ve sufficed to save his job. Now Texas has a new coach with new answers for stopping BYU.

When Hill, the No. 3 rusher among all FBS quarterbacks last year, thinks back on his breakthrough night, he says he was “in the zone.” He didn’t plan on running 17 times for 259 yards. But Texas’ ends kept crashing on the read options to stuff the back. So he kept taking his easy outside lanes. Hill knows not to expect such permissive defense Saturday.

“They’ll come out with a revenge attitude,” Hill said. “We’re prepared for that and prepared to come in and match their energy.”

New DC Vance Bedford watched last year’s game live on TV. As a former Texas defensive back, he was offended. But revenge isn’t what he seeks.

“If you need motivation to go out there and get fired up, you shouldn’t be here,” he said. “If you’ve got to get amped up because something happened in the past, something’s wrong with you.”

The burden of shutting down BYU got heavier when Texas lost Ash and three starting offensive linemen. A redemptive performance is now a must.

Last year’s BYU game was Texas’ first treacherous step toward reconstruction. This year’s game can be the first step toward a revival.

“It’s a new year, new day, new team, new coaches,” Diggs said. “We’re going to go out, have a new attitude and we’re going to have fun.”

A couple of up-tempo teams squared off in the Fight Hunger Bowl. But it was a big special teams play that propelled the Washington Huskies (9-4) to a 31-16 win over BYU (8-5). Here’s how it all went down Friday in San Francisco:

It was over when: Holding a 31-16 lead late in the fourth, Washington’s John Timu picked off BYU quarterback Taysom Hill with 2:28 left to play. It was BYU’s only turnover of the game and squashed the possibility of any late-game heroics. The Huskies ran down the clock, making BYU's final offensive drive moot.

Game ball goes to: Though he missed the fourth quarter, Washington running back Bishop Sankey turned in his usual workmanlike performance, rushing for 95 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns on the ground.

Unsung hero: Washington’s special teams -- particularly kick return -- were a huge difference early in the game. John Ross returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to give Washington a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. Then Jesse Callier had a 47-yard return that set up Sankey’s second score of the game. In his only field goal attempt of the game, Travis Coons hit a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game: The Cougars outgained the Huskies in total offense, 473 yards to 316, but struggled in the red zone, settling for field goals in lieu of touchdowns. They also held a time of possession advantage of more than four minutes, but Washington’s special teams touchdown and long return contributed to shorter drives for the Huskies.

What it means for Washington: The Huskies pick up their ninth win for the first time since 2000 and head into the Chris Petersen era with a little bit of momentum. There are a lot of questions lingering -- such as the makeup the Petersen’s new staff (pretty good audition for Marques Tuiasosopo), which players are staying or going, etc. But for a team that came into the year with fairly high hopes, the Huskies proved they deserve a spot in the final top 25 rankings.

What it means for BYU: The loss snaps BYU’s streak of four straight bowl wins and brings an end to a very difficult schedule. Eight wins is nothing to scoff at, and their 2013 resume includes victories over Texas, Georgia Tech and Boise State. Hill is a player, and with him at the helm the Cougars offense will be dangerous again next year against an easier schedule.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Fight Hunger bowl, click here.

Fight Hunger Bowl preview

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
11:00
AM ET
Washington (8-4) and BYU (8-4) square off Friday night in the Fight Hunger Bowl at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here's a quick preview:

Who to watch: For Washington, it starts with running back Bishop Sankey, a Doak Walker finalist and one of the most consistent and powerful backs in the country. He ranks second in the country in rushing yards (1,775), fourth in rushing touchdowns (18) and averages 147.8 yards on the ground per game. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is the first player in school history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season. His completion percentage isn't great -- just 54.1 percent, and he has thrown 13 interceptions to go with 19 touchdowns. But what he lacks in accuracy, he makes up for in scary athleticism.

What to watch: Both teams run an up-tempo style of offense that will put a lot of strain on the opposing team's defense. Well-known nationally is hybrid defensive end/OLB Kyle Van Noy, who pretty much single-handedly won the Poinsettia Bowl last year for the Cougars. Washington's offensive line has been steady and consistent, but keeping Van Noy out of the backfield poses as big a challenge as any pass rusher the Huskies have seen this season. How the Huskies protect quarterback Keith Price and open up holes for Sankey will be the matchup to watch.

Why to watch: Much like USC and Boise State, who already have played their bowl games, Washington is a team going through a coaching transition. That always adds intrigue and drama to the postseason, because motivation comes into question. But with Chris Petersen's hire at Washington, the Huskies don't seem to be as unstable as Boise State was in its loss to Oregon State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. BYU has a knack for playing well in the postseason, winning six of its past seven bowl games and four in a row. Their stability provides a stark contrast to the in-transition Huskies, making for some interesting sidebar discussions in this one.

Predictions: Kevin Gemmell picked Washington to win, 38-27. Ted Miller picked BYU to win, 30-24.
Last week's predictions came down to a Hail Mary in Lincoln, Neb. What does Week 11 have in store?

Brian Bennett has rallied to take a one-game lead in the season standings. If he can hold on, he'll be chowing down on Adam Rittenberg's dime at St. Elmo in Indianapolis. But there's a long way to go, including five games this Saturday.

Let's get started …

PENN STATE at MINNESOTA

Brian Bennett: I might pick Penn State here if it the game were in State College, Pa., where the Lions seem to have all of their mojo. But Minnesota has something special going and I'm done doubting the Gophers. Ra'Shede Hageman causes havoc on defense as Penn State turns the ball over three times, and Minnesota's ground game wears down the Nittany Lions defense. … Minnesota 24, Penn State 20.

Adam Rittenberg: Gophers fans probably won't like this, but I'm picking Minnesota after being burned the past two weeks. A balanced offense takes advantage of Penn State's leaky defense and a team that struggles away from home. David Cobb goes for 150 rush yards and two scores, and Philip Nelson adds two more touchdown passes. Allen Robinson has another big day for Penn State, but it's not enough as Minnesota wins its fourth consecutive Big Ten game for the first time in 40 years. … Minnesota 31, Penn State 24

IOWA at PURDUE

Rittenberg: The Hawkeyes need this one to become bowl eligible, and they'll play with a purpose at Ross-Ade Stadium. Iowa finishes a touchdown drive on the first possession behind a Mark Weisman run and controls the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Linebacker James Morris adds another takeaway as Iowa pulls away in the third quarter behind Weisman and Damon Bullock. … Iowa 31, Purdue 7

Bennett: Iowa won't need to score in the second half of this game in order to win, but the Hawkeyes will do so anyway. There's just not much to like about the way Purdue is playing right now, and I think Jake Rudock will throw a couple of touchdown passes in the second quarter to put this away early. … Iowa 38, Purdue 3.

ILLINOIS at INDIANA

Bennett: I guess somebody's got to win this one, eh? Don't expect a whole lot of defense from either side. Indiana has a few more playmakers on offense, and that, plus the home-field advantage, should be enough. But barely, as the Hoosiers rally from an early 10-point deficit to win on the Mitch Ewald field goal they should have kicked last week. … Indiana 38, Illinois 35

Rittenberg: Both of these teams had brutal losses last week, so which one bounces back? Although I liked much of what Illinois did at Penn State, but the Illini's struggles against the run still concern me. Tevin Coleman goes for 180 yards and three touchdowns, including the game winner, as Indiana overcomes a 300-yard passing performance by Nathan Scheelhaase and wins a shootout. … Indiana 45, Illinois 41

NEBRASKA at MICHIGAN

Rittenberg: The Hail Mary didn't do much to change my opinion of Nebraska, and while Michigan also has its problems, the Wolverines are a different team at home under coach Brady Hoke. Quarterback Devin Gardner continues his season of extremes with a big performance, passing for 250 yards and two touchdowns and adding another on the ground. Ameer Abdullah keeps the Huskers in this one with 150 rush yards and two scores, but Michigan uses a big second half to record the W. … Michigan 38, Nebraska 31

Bennett: No outcome here would surprise me because these are two of the most inconsistent and flawed teams we've seen all season. I'm worried about whether Gardner has PTSD from last week's Michigan State beatdown. But Nebraska has to win one of these big games on the road before I will pick it, and I think the Huskers' offense is a little too beat up right now to win in Ann Arbor, Mich. … Michigan 27, Nebraska 17

BYU at WISCONSIN

Bennett: I'm tempted to pick BYU because the Cougars have been on a roll and have the ability to put up points fast. Wisconsin is also pretty beat up right now. I'll stick with the Badgers because their run defense is very stout and the Camp Randall Stadium edge is just too much. It will be awfully close, however. … Wisconsin 28, BYU 24

Rittenberg: This is a sneaky-good game as both teams are better than their 6-2 records indicate, and both coaching staffs have a lot of familiarity from Gary Andersen's time in the state of Utah. Taysom Hill puts BYU on top early with some big plays, but Wisconsin's defense stiffens and the Badgers get strong performances from Melvin Gordon and James White, who combine for four touchdown dances on the day. … Wisconsin 34, BYU 26

You've heard from us. Now it's time to hear from one of you. As a reminder, throughout the season, we'll choose one fan/loyal blog reader each week to try his or her hand at outsmarting us. There's nothing but pride and some extremely limited fame at stake. If you're interested in participating, contact us here and here. Include your full name (real names, please), hometown and a brief description of why you should be that week's guest picker. Please also include "GUEST PICKS" in all caps somewhere in your email so we can find it easily.

This week's guest is Adam Miller from Los Angeles. Adam, the floor is yours …

Long time reader, first time writer, hoping to be your next guest picker! As a recent Penn State grad living across the country in Pac-12 territory, I need all the B1G I can get, and your blog does a lot to help with that (even though I'm still adjusting to 9am 'Lunchtime Links'). I'm even traveling from SoCal to Minneapolis this weekend with college buddies to watch my Nittany Lions taking on a surging Minnesota squad. Pretty excited for a short work week capped off with a great football weekend. Hope to hear from you guys. Keep up the good work -- Adam, PSU Class '13


Here are Adam's Week 11 picks:

Penn State 28, Minnesota 24
Iowa 27, Purdue 14
Indiana 41, Illinois 21
Michigan 34, Nebraska 27
Wisconsin 34, BYU 17

SEASON RECORDS

Brian Bennett: 62-12
Adam Rittenberg: 61-13
Guest pickers: 57-17

Texas stunned by beatdown from BYU

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
3:42
AM ET

PROVO, Utah -- BYU ran for more than a quarter mile on Saturday night.

Mack Brown had said he was ready to find out just how far Texas’ run defense has come. The answer he received was startling and painful.

There was no progress to be found in BYU’s 40-21 beatdown of Texas at LaVell Edwards Stadium. With a straightforward game plan and remarkable ease, the Cougars rushed for a school-record 550 yards and stunned a Longhorns team that absolutely didn’t see this coming.

“I’m disappointed more than anything else,” Brown said. “That’s why I want to get home and watch it. I’ll watch it on the plane going home.”

The film Brown will watch might play like a mix tape of Texas’ greatest defensive failures of 2012, most notably because UT’s knack for missing tackles against aggressive offenses returned.

[+] EnlargeTaysom Hill
AP Photo/Rick BowmerBYU quarterback Taysom Hill ran through the Texas defense for 259 yards and three touchdowns.
To focus too heavily on Texas’ defensive woes, though, is an injustice to what BYU accomplished Saturday. Taysom Hill was incredible, rushing for 259 yards and three touchdowns on only 17 carries. Most of those runs came on zone-read keepers, over and over.

And over and over, Texas’ front seven got suckered by the fake handoff and watched Hill scamper around them. What made that so difficult to defend?

“I don’t know,” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said.

The last three FBS quarterbacks to rush for 250 yards in a game? That would be Vince Young, Denard Robinson and now Taysom Hill. He’s a limited passer (9-for-26, 129 yards), but that didn’t slow the Cougars' offense down one bit.

Texas had talked all week about its intentions to slow down Jamaal Williams. He rushed for 182 yards, and Paul Lasike chipped in 87 yards and two scores. BYU owned the line of scrimmage by the second quarter and kept executing, scoring on every drive it had in the second and third quarters.

“We expected to run on them. We didn’t expect to break the school record,” Hill said. “It was working, and we were able to move the ball really efficiently on the ground. There was no need to go away from it, and we didn’t, and this was the result.”

There were moments when Texas had momentum and a lead and seemed poised to take control of the ballgame. Those moments slipped away quickly, though, because BYU flat-out did whatever it wanted.

Its defense lived up to the hype, getting constant pressure on David Ash without needing more than four rushers and forcing UT to go 5-for-17 on third downs and 0-for-3 on fourth. Texas’ plans on offense were built around Daje Johnson, and when he went down with an ankle injury there is no doubt Texas’ plans for attacking BYU were thrown off.

“When you lose a guy that’s involved in packages, like Daje obviously, you’ve got to find somebody else to put in that place, and certain things immediately go out the window,” offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said.

For Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, the toll taken by watching his defense fall apart again was obvious. BYU didn’t do anything on offense that he and his players had not expected, and he admitted that.

“They got after us. They outplayed us,” Diaz said. “The quarterback obviously was the difference in the game. We just could not execute getting stops. It was runs, it was scrambles. Very disappointing.”

Texas’ defensive leaders did not throw Diaz under the bus after the game. They insisted he has 100 percent of their trust. Brown said everyone should bear the blame.

“I didn’t think our coaches or our players lived up to what we needed to tonight to win -- including me,” Brown said.

Brown was then asked point-blank if Diaz will be coaching Texas’ defense next Saturday against Ole Miss.

“I haven’t even gotten out of the game, so ... I’d like to watch the video,” he said.

He won’t like what he sees, but that doesn’t matter now. Texas has to pick up the pieces. Arguably the two most important components of its offense, Ash and Johnson, left the game with injuries of unknown severity.

The Longhorns badly need that duo on the field, but the defense is the far greater concern. Add this all up, though, and it’s clear: BYU taught Texas and the rest of the country that the gap between where the Longhorns thought they were and where they really stand is far more than a quarter-mile wide.

Brigham Young season preview

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
10:30
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Today we're looking at Brigham Young, which is ready to put its elite defense to the test against tough FBS Independent schedule.

Brigham Young Cougars

Coach: Bronco Mendenhall (74-29, 8 seasons; 74-29, 8 seasons at BYU)

[+] EnlargeBYU's Kyle Van Noy
Douglas C. Pizac/USA TODAY SportsKyle Van Noy had 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and two interceptions last season.
2012 record: 8-5

Key losses: DE Ezekiel Ansah, QB Riley Nelson, LB Brandon Ogletree, OL Braden Hansen, DT Romney Fuga, LB Uona Kaveinga

Key returnees: LB Kyle Van Noy, WR Cody Hoffman, S Daniel Sorensen, RB Jamaal Williams, LB Spencer Hadley, TE Kaneakua Friel, OT Ryker Mathews, WR Ross Apo

Newcomer to watch: Junior college transfer cornerback Robertson Daniel appears to be the favorite to replace Jordan Johnson in the starting lineup. He hasn’t played in quite a while after sitting out the entire 2012 season to work on academics, but he’ll need to contribute.

Biggest games in 2013: Even with some powerhouses on the schedule this season, the Sept. 21 matchup with Utah still has to be priority No. 1, especially after BYU lost a heartbreaker last year with two missed last-second field goals.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: The Cougars have questions marks at a few positions, including nose guard, corner and on the offense line. The big-picture question is this: BYU has one of the best defenses in the country, but just how good can its offense be in 2013 after finishing 65th nationally in scoring last year?

Forecast: Make no mistake: Van Noy is as good as advertised and makes this BYU defense a formidable problem for an opponent.

The preseason All-America candidate racked up 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and two interceptions. BYU is replacing its starting defensive line, two linebackers and now both corners after Jordan Johnson (torn ACL) was lost for the season in fall camp. And yet, with Van Noy leading the way, this unit can still go down as one of the nation’s best.

It’s the Cougars offense that has to take the next step. New offensive coordinator Robert Anae is pushing a “go fast, go hard” mantra with faster tempo, and he inherits one of the better receivers in the country in Hoffman, who put up 1,248 receiving yards last season. Taysom Hill will be trusted to run the faster scheme and has recovered from a knee injury that cost him the final seven games of 2012.

BYU is in for another challenging schedule in its third year as an FBS Independent, with trips to Virginia, Wisconsin and Notre Dame and home games against Texas, Georgia Tech and Boise State on the slate. That could prove brutal if Hill and the Cougar offense don’t rise to the occasion, but a defense this good can go a long way.

Vaz steps in for injured Mannion

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
12:00
PM ET
Oregon State coach Mike Riley is notoriously good-natured, even if that quality is measured against the general population and not only from within the grumpy realms of major college football coaches. He tends to maintain a sense of perspective about winning and losing and the ups and downs inherent in his job.

But you can ruin his day and provoke a frown. For example ...

Say it's Monday, Oct. 8. Say Riley is about to preside over a team meeting for the 4-0, 10th-ranked Beavers. And then ...

"The doctor and trainer came running down the hall," Riley said. "I knew something wasn't good."

Correct. Riley's starting quarterback, Sean Mannion, who was passing for 340 yards per game, had a knee injury that no one knew he had when he walked off the field last Saturday after a 19-6 victory over Washington State.

"It was a total shock," Riley said.

There goes Riley's smile. And there goes the season.

Or does it?

That's the big question as the Beavers send junior Cody Vaz out Saturday to make his first career start against a Brigham Young defense that is highly proficient at hitting the quarterback, a nationally ranked unit that has surrendered just nine points in its past three games.

[+] EnlargeCody Vaz
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireJunior quarterback Cody Vaz hasn't seen the field since 2010, and that was in very limited action.
"We don't really have to do anything different with Cody," Riley said. "Cody has been with us a long time."

He then added, "I've got a lot of faith in Cody."

Of course, no one expected anything else but protestations of faith from Riley and his players. There is no other way to be. It's got to be all about supporting the "next man in," or you essentially wave a white flag over what was previously blossoming into a special season.

Further, the injury isn't season-ending. Mannion will have meniscus surgery Wednesday, and his status thereafter will be "week-to-week." While it's purely speculative until the surgery is complete, he could be back in two to four weeks.

So if Vaz can maintain the Beavers' fast start, they might be able to stay in the Pac-12 North Division race.

Riley described Vaz as smart, competitive and talented. He said Vaz has a "great release" and "sees things well."

"He's not much of a different style than Sean," Riley said. "He's just shorter."

Mannion is 6-foot-5. Vaz is 6-1.

The bad news is that Mannion, though just a sophomore, is a veteran who was baptized by a horrible 3-9 season in 2011 that didn't kill him -- despite being sacked 27 times -- and apparently made him stronger. Past history has shown that quarterbacks tend to make great strides in their second year playing in Riley's system, but the first year is often filled with pratfalls.

Vaz will not only be making his first start, he will be seeing his first college action since getting some throw-away time in 2010.

"The only unfortunate part is I haven't played him enough," Riley admitted.

Still, BYU -- hardly an offensive juggernaut in any event -- has quarterback issues itself. Talented freshman Taysom Hill had played well filling in for injured senior starter Riley Nelson, but he blew out his knee last week late in a 6-3 win over Utah State. Nelson will get the start against the Beavers, but he's coming back from fractured vertebrae.

The best part of Nelson's game may be his athleticism, but a back injury isn't something you want to test with a lot of QB scrambles.

Oregon State has played good defense this season, particularly against the run. It also has a strong secondary that has grabbed seven interceptions. While Riley maintains that the playbook will be open for Vaz, it wouldn't be surprising if the Beavers leaned on their defense and hoped their running game got untracked.

Unfortunately, the running game remains a work in progress for Oregon State. The previous two seasons, it was horrible. This year?

"It's OK," Riley said. "We've gotten better for sure from a year ago. I wouldn't say it's reliable."

Did we mention that BYU is No. 1 in the nation against the run, yielding just 1.93 yards per rush?

Vaz has looked good in practice. In fact, he has looked like the Beavers' best signal-caller at times. Riley's comments last spring suggested that Vaz had gained on Mannion. While Riley said Tuesday that he "never made the point that there was an imminent change," he said that Vaz was good enough to make it clear that the competition "was real."

"The one good thing about this on our team is they all know Cody is good," Riley said.

Good in practice is one thing. Good in front of 63,500 fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium is another.

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