During the first four games of the season, the BYU offense struggled with consistency and finishing drives. Over the past two weeks, however, the Cougars have shown improvement following the insertion of backup quarterback Riley Nelson into the starting lineup. After fielding one of the worst offenses in the nation statistically over most of September, the Cougars have put up over 440 yards in each of its last two games against Utah State and San Jose State.
Nelson brings a run-pass flavor to the BYU offense. Last Saturday the 6-0, 195-pound junior passed for 219 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 65 yards. All three of his touchdowns tosses came in the first half and equaled the number of touchdowns former starter Jake Heaps threw in the first four-and-a-half games.
Defensively (except for a handful of breakdowns this season), BYU has played well, particularly in the front seven, where the Cougars have a number of talented defensive linemen. The Cougar linebackers are the deepest and most athletic group they have had in years.
This team is on a three-game winning streak, but all three wins have come at home against non-AQ programs. BYU has faired well in recent seasons against PAC-12 teams however, going 7-4 against the league since 2006. This is BYU's first trip to Corvallis since defeating the Beavers 10-6 in 1978.
The Beavers have steadily improved as the season has worn on and while their record shows 1-4, they very easily could be sitting at 3-2 right now after very close losses to Sacramento State and UCLA.
Like the Cougars, the Beavers have shuffled their quarterbacks, starting junior incumbent Ryan Katz for the first half against Sacramento State before moving forward with redshirt freshman Sean Mannion.
The Beaver playbook has also grown a great deal since early September as we've seen more short game passes, underneath routes and bootlegs more recently.
On offense the Beavers will look to have a balance between run and pass plays. When they are balanced they tend to have their greatest success, however the running game continues to take hits as it is uncertain whether Malcolm Agnew (hamstring) or Jovan Stevenson (concussion) will see the field on Saturday.
Defensively we've seen the Beaver defense improve greatly since the start of the season. The defensive front has been very physical and will put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, led by defensive end Scott Crichton who leads the PAC 12 in tackles for loss with eight. On the year the Beavers have 23 tackles for loss and eight sacks.