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MIDTERM REPORT CARD: BYU, Utah, and Utah State

Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Michael Shelton (18) makes a sliding tackle on Utah State Aggies running back Darwin Thompson (5) during the Utah State versus BYU football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

We are officially at the midpoint of the college football season. Six games have been played, and there are six to go for the Utes and the Aggies. BYU has played seven games with five to go. How do the teams match up? Is any team clearly good enough to be called the best in the state?

The defenses of Utah, Utah State and BYU

Utah’s defense continues to be practically impassable. Teams with strong offenses have been mystified by Utah. Their plans have been stymied. Utah’s scoring defense is currently ranked tenth among all college football teams. Utah’s defense has allowed only twelve touchdowns in total so far this season. Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley has his defense only allowing the opposing offense to score an average of 16 points per game. Utah’s defense on 3rd down is ranked 20th nationally. Teams hoping to convert on 3rd down are successful only 31.5% of the time. Utah has turned two interceptions into two touchdowns. Utah has forced 18 sacks for a total loss of 132 yards.

Utah’s defense: A-

Utah State’s scoring defense is tied for 48th nationally, allowing 16 touchdowns this season. Its opponents managed to score an average of 23.8 points per game. Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson has benefitted from nine returning starters.  Utah State is ranked 49th overall for stopping opponents on 3rd down, allowing the opponent to convert 36.4% of third downs into first downs. The Aggies’ defense has three interceptions returned for touchdowns and has forced nineteen sacks for a total loss of 144 yards.

Utah State’s defense: B+

BYU is ranked 53rd for scoring defense. The Cougar defense has permitted 23 touchdowns this season. BYU’s opponents have scored an average of 24.4 points per game, for a total of 171 points. However, it has played one more game than Utah State or Utah. The Cougars have no interceptions returned on the play for a touchdown. They have forced ten sacks for a total loss of 69 yards.

BYU’s defense: C

The offenses of Utah, Utah State and BYU

Utah’s scoring offense is ranked 71st nationally. It has scored 21 touchdowns and averages 28.5 points per game. The Utes have scored a total of 310 points this season. On 3rd down conversions, they are tied for 62nd nationally. Utah has attempted to convert on 3rd down 90 times, being successful 36 times, for an average of .400. Its offense has fumbled eight times and lost the fumble for a state-high seven times. Utah has been showing some life on 4th down, converting eight times on fourteen attempts. In comparison, the nation’s top 4th down converter, Army, has converted 19 times out of 21 attempts. The Utes have allowed 15 sacks on its quarterback for a loss of 98 yards. They are -2 in the turnover margin. Utah’s offense overall has been mediocre, but of late has risen up to play more closely to how preseason analysts expected Utah to play. At the end of the season, its grade could justifiably be raised from this midterm report card.

Utah’s offense: C+

Utah State’s scoring offense is prolific, superior and efficient. It is ranked 2nd nationally. The Aggies have scored 310 points so far this season, averaging a state-high 51.7 points per game on 40 touchdowns. They are 20th overall on 3rd down conversions.  Utah State has succeeded in 35 conversions on 75 attempts, averaging .467. It has fumbled eight times and failed to recover six of those fumbles. The Aggies have allowed its quarterback to get sacked six times. On fourth down, Utah State has converted once out of three attempts. Utah State is +5 in the turnover margin. The offense is likely to keep forcing overwhelming victories until the highly-anticipated match against Boise State on November 24.

Utah State’s offense: A+

BYU’s offense has been inconsistent. Against Wisconsin, it could do no wrong and its fly sweep could not be stopped. Against Utah State, the Cougars seemed to lose their identity and this forgetfulness was reflected in the lopsided 45-20 score. BYU’s offense is ranked 97th nationally. It averages 25.1 points per game and the offense has scored 23 touchdowns. The Cougars are 95th nationally in 3rd down conversions, getting 32 first downs on 88 attempts, averaging .364. They have allowed 9 sacks for a total loss of 69 yards. BYU is +3 in the turnover margin.

BYU’s offense: C+

Top scorers

Utah’s top scorer is Zack Moss. He is ranked 41st nationally, scoring eight touchdowns for 48 points. Matt Gay has succeeded on each of his 21 field goal attempts, bestowing upon his team 45 points.

Utah State junior Domink Eberle is the 7th highest-scoring player in this season of college football. Eberle has scored ten field goals and made all 37 PAT attempts for a total of 67 points. Darwin Thompson has scored seven touchdowns.

BYU’s top scorer is Skyler Southam. He is 20 out of 21 on PATs and five out of eight on field goals, for 35 points. Squally Canada has scored five touchdowns for 30 points.

Midterm report card

Utah has presented the most complete defense in the state of Utah. The fair possibility of Utah winning the south division crown is the unrealized accomplishment head coach Kyle Whittingham needs to show Utah is a PAC-12 contender. Overall grade: B+

There is no doubt that Utah State has the most prolific offense among these three teams. Utah State has one of the the best offenses in the nation. Utah State head coach Matt Wells and offensive coordinator David Yost are arguably the most appealing up-and-coming coaches in the nation. Utah State could conceivably end the season as a top 15 team. Overall grade: A

BYU’s season may become the tale of two quarterbacks. The Cougars have the potential of ending the season as a ranked team. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake has done enough to keep his job.  Sitake has not done enough to have his team be called anything but third best in the state of Utah. The future is bright for BYU if new quarterback freshman Zach Wilson continues to play with energy, efficiency, and a supporting offensive force. Overall grade: C