This isn’t your typical spring preview position break down. Instead of blabbering about how well he performed in spring ball etc. I’m going to try and use some stats from last year to predict how well BYU’s Quarterback Jake Heaps will perform against this year’s opponents. For this preview I’m going to use Passing Efficiency Defense (What QB rating does the defense hold the opposing QB to?)
Ole Miss: Last year the Rebels had the 109th best Opp. QB rating of 151.00 against a SOS of 35th in the country (according to teamrankings.com) that’s 109 out of 120 FBS teams. Ole Miss is young on defense and lost one of their best LB D.T. Shackelford to a season ending injury. So there may be some improvement due to better team chemistry etc. from last year but nothing drastic so we’ll compare them to an opponent from last year who had an opp. QB rating of about 151.00. New Mexico had an opp. QB rating of 153.17, good for 111th in the nation. Against New Mexico last year Heaps went 18-32 with 2 TDs and 0 Int. and a QB rating of 137.5. Jake has had some time to mature and he returns his whole starting line from last year so (as with the rest of the predictions) I’m going to assume that he shows improvement in each game and as he gets deeper into this season. It is hard to accurately predict this year’s stats because BYU’s offense has changed a lot and has a new offensive coordinator. But if we know that Ole Miss has a New Mexico caliber passing defense then we can put together a good guess. Here’s what I think the box score will look like after the game: 25-35 for 300 yards with 2 TDs and 1 int.
Texas: The Longhorns finished 2010 with an opp. QB rating of 118.94, good for 36th in the country. Texas’ strength of schedule last year was 76th in the country. That number is very similar to BYU’s 116.91 mark. The closest opponent from last year is Nevada who finished 39th with a 119.80 rating. Texas lost their defensive coordinator Will Muschamp who left to take the head coaching job at Florida. I think then it’s safe to assume that their defense won’t get any better than last year, at least not before the second game of the season. Last season against Nevada Jake went 24-45 for 229 yards, 0 TD’s and 0 Int. and a QB rating of 96.1. Anyone who watched last year’s game against the Wolfpack will remember a certain coach’s propensity to only throw deep fades and run the ball. Under the new regime I expect Heaps to be much more efficient in this game, but Texas will have a very athletic defense. If he gets lax at any point in this game then he could throw a pick or two. 28-41 for 280 yards, 2 TDs and 1 int.
Utah: Utah’s pass efficiency defense last year was only slightly better than Wyoming’s. The Utes ranked 88th in the FBS. Those numbers were compiled with the 22nd SOS in the country. Last year Heaps went 22-37 for 228 yards, 1 TD and 1 int. against Utah. The Utah game was interesting because Heaps didn’t really seem to settle in until the final drive where he went 4 of 4 for 50 yards to set his team up for a chance at a game winning field goal. I’m trying as hard as I can not to delve into the poor play calling on that final drive. The only way I’m going to avoid it is to give my prediction now: 22-34 for 250 yards 2 TD 0 int.
UCF: Central Florida had the 18th best Opp. QB rating of 113.00 with a SOS that ranked 84th. San Diego St.’s numbers compare nicely with UCF’s. SDSU had an Opp. QB rating of 113.41 (20th) and a SOS of 67th. These numbers would suggest that UCF’s passing defense is slightly worse than SDSU’s. BYU did not pass the ball very much last year against the Aztecs. That game was run, run, and run some more with a few short passes sprinkled in. Heaps was very efficient in that game despite the Cougars not stretching the field at all. He went 15-22 for 126 yards, 0 TD’s and 1 int. Jake should fare much better against UCF and BYU will stretch the field which should help him out considerably: 25-32 for 300 yards, 3 TD’s and 1 int.
Utah St: The Aggies opp. QB rating last year was 128.43, 60th in the country. I expect the Aggies defense to continue to improve under head coach Gary Andersen. But make no mistake about this game. The Cougars are out for revenge. They were embarrassed last year by the Aggies and they don’t want that to happen again. Heaps won’t throw 50 passes in this game and his stats will show marked improvement from last year when he went 27-54 for 270 yards 0 TD’s and 2 int. This year he’ll go 25-35 for 295 yards, 3 TD and 0 int.
San Jose St: SJSU has the 90th best opp. QB rating of 138.02 with a SOS of 94th. SJSU’s passing defense is not very good and that will show in the stats. Wyoming and Utah are right around the same rankings as SJSU for opp. QB ratings but with much tougher SOS. Against Wyoming last year Heaps went 10-18 for 81 yards, 1 TD and 1 int. He really only had 1 really bad pass that was picked off and returned for a TD. Fans remember that former offensive coordinator Robert Anae went into hiding after that pass and the Cougars went almost exclusively to the run (which to Anae’s credit was working very well). Wyoming’s defense is much better than SJSU’s so I think Jake goes 19-25 for 270 yards, 2 TD’s and 0 int. in a Cougar’s blow out. It will be tough for him to rack up stats in this game because he’ll be on the bench for the 4th Quarter.
Oregon St: OSU ranked 100th in opp. QB rating (142.74) and a SOS of 7th. So their defense is probably better than these numbers show. Wyoming and New Mexico are on either side of the Beavers in the rankings but Wyoming’s numbers are much better and the Lobo’s numbers are much worse. This would lead me to believe that Heaps performance could lie somewhere between the Wyoming and New Mexico. He’ll go 20-30 for 280 yards with 2 TD’s and 1 int.
Idaho St: The Bengals ranked 105th in the FCS division with an opp. QB rating of 145.16. I don’t think I can accurately compare them to anyone on last year’s schedule because I don’t think we played anyone this bad. UNLV was BYU’s worst opponent according to pass efficiency defense and they were way better than ISU. Heaps will put up some ridiculous numbers in 3 Quarters (maybe 2.5). 23-25 for 390 yards 4 TD’s and 0 int.
TCU: The Horned Frogs had the best defense in the country last year. Lucky for BYU they lost some players from last year’s team. Unfortunately they will still be near the tops in the country. Last year against TCU Heaps was 14-30 for 91 yards, 0 TD’s and 2 int. This year should be much better as BYU’s offense as a whole is much improved. With the ability to stretch the field and an offensive coordinator who is willing to do so, Jake should have an easier time throwing the ball. BYU’s offensive line is very experienced and should allow him plenty of time to operate. He’ll still have a tough game though: 22-35 for 260 yards, 2 TD’s and 2 int.
Idaho: They are FBS that makes them a step up from ISU. Their opp. QB rating is slightly worse than USU’s with an almost identical SOS. Heaps will go 30-40 for 380 yards with 3 TD’s and 1 int.
New Mexico St: NMSU ranked 105th in the country in opp. QB rating. Their defensive ability is similar to New Mexico, Colorado and UNLV. Heaps will be in line for another big game. 25-30 for 310 yards 3 TD’s and 0 int.
Hawaii: Hawaii ranked 52nd in the country and had a similar defense to Utah St. Playing on at Hawaii will be tough for BYU and Jake Heaps but with a full year of seasoning Heaps will be near the top of his game. BYU vs. Hawaii games have always been high scoring this one could be the same. 37-45 for 395 yards, 4 TD’s and 1 int.
Looking at this year’s schedule, if Heaps can minimize his mistakes in the big games vs. tougher opponents, then he will have lots of opportunities vs. weaker opponents to pad his stats. If you add up all the stats from these games, it comes out to an electric year for the sophomore QB. It adds up to 304-367 for 3,710 yards, 32 TD’s and 8 int.