Countdown: Texas vs. BYU

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
7:00
AM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- You’ve watched and rewatched the Texas-New Mexico State game and then rewatched it again. You’ve gobbled up all the stories, videos and tweets we’ve offered up this week. Now it’s almost game time again. Here's our final preview of No. 15 Texas’ first road game of the year at BYU on Saturday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN2).

Five notes

1. Since losing to No. 1 Ohio State in 2006, Texas has gone 29-2 in nonconference games. The only losses were to Alabama in the BCS title game and at home against UCLA in 2010. The Longhorns are also on a 13-game winning streak in true road games and are averaging 43.7 points per game during that stretch.

2. How good was David Ash to end the New Mexico State game? Take out his first five drives of the night and he finished with a near-perfect QBR of 99.9. He led an offense that scored seven touchdowns of 20-plus yards vs. NMSU. In the entire 2012 season, Texas had 16 scoring plays of more than 20 yards.

3. Take any stat you want -- they all tell us BYU had one of the nation’s best defenses in 2012. Since the beginning of last season, the Cougars have given up only 19 touchdowns and 0.9 points per drive. The only school that bested that number? Alabama, at 0.8.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesQuarterback David Ash was scintillating in Texas' Week 1 victory against New Mexico State.
4. BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy leads the FBS with 22 career sacks, one better than South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. In each of the past two years, he’s achieved the rare feat of recording a stat in every major defensive category: tackle, tackle for loss, sack, interception, pass breakup, quarterback hurry, fumble recovery, forced fumble, blocked kick and touchdown.

5. Injury update: Mack Brown said Wednesday that he expects receiver Marcus Johnson (ankle) to play against BYU. Sanders was suspended for the season opener but could have a key impact on Saturday. Defensive back Josh Turner (hip) has been practicing and should make his season debut as well.

Four quotes

1. "This is the first time that it's really been his team. This week last year, we were still trying to decide who to start at quarterback. I think that's what we should be talking about: how well [Jameis] Winston played at Florida State and how well David Ash played at our place, because our quarterback situation in the future looks really, really good. We're very excited about it.” -- Brown on Ash

2. "BYU has a great defense. They have a couple of good linebackers and a couple down players. We can prepare for those guys, and it's going to be a cage match, as we all have it in our heads.” -- Texas RB Johnathan Gray

3. "Desmond Harrison issue with Brigham Young was not one between Texas and Brigham Young. It was between Contra Costa College and Brigham Young. Never mentioned between the two athletic departments. Dead issue moving forward.” -- Brown

4a. "Probably Flying Squirrel. I didn't want to be the one who brought that up. I call him Daje. Some people might call him Flying Squirrel.” -- Ash, when asked for Daje Johnson’s nickname.

4b. "Whatever. I don't really have a nickname. If someone finds one that's good, I'll keep it. I don't know about Squirrel.” -- Johnson

Three keys

1. Slow down KVN: Brown acknowledged Wednesday that Van Noy is a surefire No. 1 draft pick and a defender who can destroy any game plan. He’s the kind of talent BYU needs to swing this game, and Texas must find multiple ways to limit his impact and keep him out of the backfield.

2. Score early: We can obsess over pass/run ratios and finding enough touches for every Texas skill player, but none of that matters. Texas just needs to get in the end zone, and do so early and often. I don’t think BYU can keep up in a shootout.

3. Run defense: BYU sophomore back Jamaal Williams is fresh off a 144-yard performance at Virginia that put him 11 yards shy of a career-best day. Lots of rushers had career-best days against the Longhorns last season. Williams’ versatility and the fast tempo of the BYU offense could make him a handful for a Texas defense that believes it’s better against the run than a year ago.

Two key players

1. Texas WR/RB Daje Johnson: Would anyone be shocked if Johnson is the focal point of Texas’ offensive attack on Saturday night? Texas coaches have been raving about his rare talents this week. Johnson has never had more than seven carries or five receptions in a game in his young career, but this could be his night. His explosiveness and versatility make him a must-use in the Longhorn offense.

2. BYU WR Cody Hoffman: Will he play or won’t he? Reports out of Provo say Hoffman’s status for Saturday is somewhere in between probable and doubtful. Bronco Mendenhall is calling Hoffman’s return from a hamstring injury for the UT game “possible.” The top target in the BYU passing attack put up 100 catches for 1,248 receiving yards in 2012 and has 28 career touchdowns. The Cougars need him back.

One prediction

No. 15 Texas 31, BYU 13
This is a statement game for Texas. Despite its season-opening loss, BYU is legitimately a top 40-caliber team with an elite defense and a serious home-field advantage. The Longhorns can prove they’re one of the Big 12’s best on Saturday, and this game will end up coming down to the superior firepower Texas has on offense.

Max Olson | email

Texas/Big 12 reporter

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