Blue Blood: Big stage again for Cougars as they meet Harbaugh in ‘The Big House’

COMMENTARY — BYU lost and Tanner Mangum didn’t save the day. So what.

This BYU team is so fun to watch and this Saturday, the team is center stage once again in the college football world.

120px-BYUlogoIn what will be another great game for BYU to showcase itself this Saturday (10 a.m. MT on ABC), the Cougars look to go into Ann Arbor and beat the Michigan Wolverines.

BYU has a great record on ABC so far this season and with this opportunity, the Cougars have to take advantage of it. Clearly, a loss here would haunt the Cougars — they can’t afford a two-game losing streak, no matter how close the games are or who the opponent is. Even with the loss at the Rose Bowl last week to No. 10-ranked UCLA, BYU still has a chance to right the ship — as five-and-a-half point underdogs — with a win over the Wolverines.

Although I wish the Cougars would have come away from UCLA undefeated, I am still excited about BYU’s chance this week against a solid opponent on the road on the national stage.

The Cougars did play good enough to win last Saturday and deserved the road win, but just fell a little short. BYU showed up and represented the program in great fashion and made Cougar Nation proud.

Unlike a lot of teams this time of year, BYU hasn’t taken the easy route, either. The Cougars have played some of the best so far in 2015. The UCLA game ended up going down to the wire and in the end it could have easily gone either way. Because of their great performance, Bronco Mendenhall’s team only dropped a few spots in the Top 25 from No. 19 to No. 22 nationally.

BYU has been the underdog in every game so far this 2015 season. With two exciting wins, the Cougars are really just a point away from being Top 10 worthy. A loss is a loss, but if nothing else, BYU came away from the game with a great experience for their program and something to build on.

Remember, just a few weeks ago in the preseason (before BYU lost its starting QB and running back), people were saying BYU would be extremely lucky to come out of September with one win. Now, even without Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams, there is a very good likelihood the Cougars will emerge from their first four games with three very impressive victories.

I am proud of where BYU is right now and can only hope that the coaches and players take the UCLA loss and use it as a tool to strengthen their program and get back to winning. After this four-game stretch, BYU will hit a little softer side of their scheduling.

Harvey Langi makes an interception, BYU at UCLA, Anaheim, Calif., Sept. 19, 2015 | Photo courtesy BYU Athletics
Harvey Langi makes an interception, BYU at UCLA, Anaheim, Calif., Sept. 19, 2015 | Photo courtesy BYU Athletics

I just want to take a second to point out one name that was by far BYU’s stand out performance of the UCLA game. Harvey Langi played last week’s game like a man among boys and BYU needs more from him moving forward. Langi is a former Bingham High school running back. After his mission, he transferred from Utah to BYU and also moved from running back to linebacker.

Langi was everywhere last Saturday and even appeared on offense to run the ball on short yardage. At linebacker, Langi had eight tackles, one pass deflection and 2 interceptions (including one in the UCLA end zone). His athleticism was on display on the national highlight programs.

It was also great to see Tanner Mangum starting to mature, feel more comfortable and take on extremely good defenses with absolutely no fear or reserve.

BYU will need everyone to step up again this week as the Cougars head to “The Big House” to take on Michigan and in its 107,601-seat stadium.

One fun fact: The Cougars have only played Michigan one time —  in the 1984 Holiday Bowl. Long time fans will never forget that game, where the Cougars beat the Wolverines 24-17  on a TD pass from Robbie Bosco to Kelly Smith. The victory capped a perfect season and helped BYU win its one and only National Championship.

Michigan Stadium, aka "The Big House"
Michigan Stadium, aka “The Big House,” is the second-largest stadium in the world.

Of course, that was a long time ago — head coach Jim Harbaugh was a player on that Michigan team in 1984 (he had a broken arm and did not play). Now both teams are struggling to return their programs to national prominence.

The Wolverines lost their season opener to Utah at Rice Eccles Stadium, but then quickly rebounded and has now easily beaten both Oregon State and UNLV by a combined score of 63-14.

BYU is, without a doubt, the best opponent that Michigan will have faced this year. But the Wolverines have had more time to gel with Harbaugh’s new system.

The Wolverines currently have the No. 13-ranked pass defense in the nation, something Mangum will have to deal with. But the way he’s performed in the last few weeks, I see him doing great again this week on the road.

The Wolverines are pretty balanced on offense between run and pass, with QB Jake Rudock under center. I would look for Bronco’s defense to get a chance to shine, giving the BYU offense a chance to win.

I don’t think that Michigan is nearly as good as they once were. Watch out though, because as Harbaugh gets comfortable and gets his recruits in place, he will completely turn around this program.

Vegas has BYU as a 5.5-point underdogs, but what else is new, right? BYU has been the underdog — big time — in every game so far this season.

But fear not Cougar fans, BYU has an honest chance to get a Big Upset in “The Big House!”

Blue Blood is a sports column written by Scott Young. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.


Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.


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