The Cougars have outscored their opponents 103-0 over the last two games, but what do these shutouts really say about the strength of BYU's defense...
103-0 looks really good on paper. At the end of the day that is what really matters when it comes to positioning in polls in college football. The people that are ranking teams very rarely watch any game, they normally look at box scores. When you see a shutout in the score that is a very impressive statement. Yet, just how good is the BYU defense? Is the defense really that good or is the teams they are playing that bad? Is BYU setting themselves up to be exposed?
Looking at the two shutout you have to look at the opponents that BYU has faced. First, UCLA. The Bruins are not looking very good. After getting their butts kicked in Provo, they followed up that performance with a big loss to Arizona. In the Arizona game the Bruins didn't score an offensive touchdown. Their only offensive points was a 35 yard field goal. UCLA was able to score on Arizona in the game, and they also beat Tennessee. Tennessee looks to be in a down year, but their lose to Florida was deceptive. Tennessee turned the ball over three times, and gave up a punt return. The Vols defense played well it the ball game. Limiting Florida to just 96 yards passing, and 243 total yards. An impressive performance considering the starting field position that their offense gave up. UCLA isn't the best offense in college football; however, they did put points on the board against quality opponents.
Wyoming, isn't as good as UCLA. The Cowboys just aren't that good of a football team. They only scored three points against Air Force, and squeaked out wins over Ohio and North Dakota State. Yet, the Cowboys did score points in all of their games until they played BYU.
Although the teams they were playing haven't been huge offensive threats, that is only part of what makes shutouts special. A team has to be perfect in all aspects of the game. The offense has to be able to move the ball to not allow the other team to gain good field position. The special teams have to pin the other team on kickoffs and punts. Plus, the defense can't give up any big plays.
The fact that a team can't have any slip ups in any facet of makes the shutout very rare in college football. So far this season there has only been ten shutouts. (BYU has two of them, and South Carolina State has been shutout twice) So far this season there have been more lop-sided match ups than either of BYU's last two games. (Texas vs. Florida Atlantic for example) Yet, the underdogs in those match ups have managed to put up points. Does that mean that the defenses of the top teams aren't as good? No, it is just hard to complete the shutout.
Especially in games when one team is blowing out the other. The teams will insert their second or third string players, and that allows the other team to move the ball down the field. Also to maintain the intensity on the field with these lesser players is very difficult. Everyone is really waiting for the clock to run out on the game, and move on to the next week. Yet, to have the second and third string players maintain the shutout is very impressive.
So what does this say about BYU's defense? Does this mean that BYU's defense could handle the offense of USC or Oklahoma? No, BYU's defense would have their hands full with either of those teams. What the last two shutouts say about BYU is that they can play with elite programs. They aren't a Hawaii that have a great offense and a terrible defense. BYU have athletes that can keep BYU in games. With the offense that BYU has they don't need to have a perfect performance from the defense they just need a few stops per game. The defense has proven in the last two weeks that they are at least on that level.