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4 Downs: Taking a look at the BYU offense






It's not often you see an offense -- particularly one in college -- throw a ton of importance on one particular tight end as a first-down threat, but that's exactly what BYU has done with freshman tight end Matt Bushman.  


Bushman leads all pass catchers in every conceivable baseline receiving statistic -- other than touchdowns, but there hasn't been a whole lot of this for this BYU offense, has there? (More on that later). 37 targets, 23 catches and 246 yards are all team highs. 


"He's a good player. He's got size, he can catch the ball in tight spots," MSU defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "They're going to move him around a little bit, they'll even displace him sometimes to try to get some matchups that way. The quarterback has confidence in throwing him the ball." 




I've seen a lot of ink spilled from the beat guys out in Provo on the guy that started the season as a the fourth-string quarterback, barely back from his Mormon mission, that was supposed to redshirt and may or may not be a walk-on. (That's not sarcasm: he declined to answer the question this week.) 


That's a pretty good indicator of how wonky the quarterback situation has been the last couple of weeks. 


In fairness, the projected starter, Tanner Mangum, is back this week after missing last week while injured. He was supposed to be the next big thing at quarterback for BYU, but clearly hasn't delivered that yet given how mightily the Cougs have struggled offensively this year (again, more on that later). That aforementioned possible walk-on is Joe Critchlow, who will be the backup ahead of Koy Detmer Jr. (the nephew of offensive coordinator Ty Detmer) and Beau Hoge. 




Let's see just how bad BYU's offense has been: 


- 11.7 points per game, T-128th of 130 FBS teams 


- T-125 th in yards per play (4.42) 


- BYU has 586 rushing yards this season; there are 17 **players** in the nation with more than that, one of them in this state: Ito Smith of Southern Miss. 


- BYU has been to the red zone 12 times and only scored 4 touchdowns, giving it a 33.3 touchdown percentage that ranks tied for 125th in the nation.  


One problem MSU coach Dan Mullen sees: turnovers. (BYU's -10 turnover margin is tied for 127th in the nation) 


"I think one of the things you have to see is they've had some self-inflicted errors," Mullen said. "What if they show up here and they don't have any self-inflicted errors? If they come in and correct all of those mistakes, it's a very different team." 




For all the time spent beating up BYU's offense in this blog post, there is one area where the Cougars have been better than most. The Cougars rank 21st nationally in Bill Connelly's Stuff Rate metric, a measure of how often an offense has its runs stopped for no gain or a loss. Since this offense has been so bad, that tells me one thing: bad plays, which there are a lot of, go for exactly one yard. So if MSU does its job Saturday night, we could see a lot of BYU punts on third-and-7 or third-and-6.



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