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BYU Cougars vs. San Jose State Spartans Preview and Prediction

Bronson Kaufusi

Bronson Kaufusi

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Both BYU (6-2) and San Jose State (4-4) had the chance to relax and enjoy Halloween last week, as the two schools each had a bye. This Friday night, the Cougars and Spartans will shelve their trick-or-treat candy for a late-night date in the Bay Area.

This is the first game in a home-and-home series that will see the Spartans make a return trip to Provo in 2017. The Spartans lead the all-time series 10-6 over the Cougars.

BYU at San Jose State

Kickoff: 11:30 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV: CBS Sports Network

Spread: BYU -13.5

Three Things to Watch

1. BYU’s run defense vs. SJSU RB Tyler Ervin

One of BYU’s main focuses during the bye week was stopping the run. The Cougars have been prone to giving up big runs this season, especially in their losses against UCLA and Michigan. This week’s test will be a good measuring stick to see how far the Cougar defense has come in this regard with the nation’s third-leading rusher, Tyler Ervin, lining up for the Spartans.

Ervin is the Spartans’ do-it-all back as he not only carries the rock out of the backfield, he hauls in catches, returns kickoffs and punts. Ervin has had the most touches of any player in college football this season with 214.

2. How much will the playbook expand for BYU QB Tanner Mangum?

A true freshman, Mangum has been nothing short of terrific for BYU after losing Taysom Hill in the first week of the season against Nebraska.

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Mangum has thrown for 1,905 yards, 14 touchdowns and only six interceptions while completing 63.7 percent of his passes. Not bad for a guy who was serving an LDS mission in Chile five months ago.

As BYU enters the home stretch of its schedule, and with 10 wins within reach, how much of the offensive playbook grows for Mangum? Quarterbacks coach Jason Beck said this week that they are bringing back some plays that were shelved after Hill went down against the Huskers.

The more plays BYU’s offensive staff throws at Mangum this season the better. Not only will it help the Cougars’ young quarterback grow, but it also benefits the offense’s future development. An independent FBS program, BYU has some challenging schedules awaiting it down the road.

3. Will anyone be awake?

Unless you’re watching a Hawaii Rainbow Warriors game on Oceanic PPV, it’s not very often you see an 11:30 p.m. (ET) kickoff. In fact, this is the latest game BYU has ever played on the mainland in the program’s history.

San Jose State still has a game at Hawaii, but this Friday’s game is still a later kick time than the upcoming visit to Honolulu.

We saw earlier this year that an early start time greatly affected BYU against Michigan, as the Cougars looked and played sluggish on their way to a shutout loss against the fighting’ Harbaughs. Will a late kickoff have any bearing against San Jose State? BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said this week that he is usually in bed by 9:30 p.m.

Make sure to get your naps in coach before this one.

Final Analysis

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The last time BYU made a trip to Spartan Stadium in San Jose was in 2012. It was not a pleasant memory for the Cougars, as they fell to the Spartans 20-14. San Jose State that season went on to finish 11-2 and Mike MacIntyre parlayed that success into the head coaching job at Colorado.

This time around, there’s no David Fales at quarterback to lead the Spartans’ attack. Tyler Ervin is a special talent, but this BYU defense will be the best D he has seen this season, and that includes the Auburn Tigers. BYU is the toughest test to this point for Ervin; and I’d expect Bronco Mendenhall’s defense to be well prepared for Ervin.

The Spartans will score their share of points, but they won’t have any answer to stop BYU’s high-octane offense. Cougars roll in a game that will never be in doubt.

Prediction: BYU 41, San Jose State 23

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.