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It won’t be miserably hot in Marietta, Ga. Saturday, like it was the week prior, which led to the bigger Penn State wilting against the Running Eagles in the quarterfinals.
Saturday’s high is expected to be in the mid-70s with a possible overcast.
That’s good news for BYU, because the speed of Life in the backline could
have presented a major problem otherwise, and it still could, but the sun
won’t help this time.
Life is usually at an advantage in the backline. This weekend they are in that they’re faster than BYU across the board, but they’re at a disadvantage in size.
The Running Eagles are much quicker at No. 12 and No. 13 than BYU. Paul Lasike and Hoseki Kofe are big, powerful runners in the centers for the Cougars, while Life’s Colton Cariaga and Darrian Woodson rely more on agility and sheer speed.
Cariaga will be able to bring down both Lasike and Kofe using their size and momentum against them, but Woodson is a more confrontational tackler. He tends to try and knock ball carriers on their heels more than cut them down. That could work against him, as Lasike and Kofe should win the majority of the shoulder-up battles, which could wear on Woodson.
Whether or not Life’s quicker backs can steal some possession from BYU in the midfield is going to be paramount. One person who could assist in that effort, but is perceived to be not as good as his counterpart, is Life flyhalf Jake McFadden. Shaun Davies is a well-known commodity for BYU, but McFadden is an up-and-comer. This is his first chance to line up across from Davis. Expect him to rise to the occasion. Outside of Cariaga and Dolan, he's probably been Life's most consistent player this season.
On the wing, Life is again faster. Calvin Nell and Kyle Grossheider are faster than Malosi Te’o and whoever else BYU puts on the opposite touch line. If Life can get some threatening ball to the edge, and Grossheider and Nell are given some space to work with, they should be able to finish off tries.
One of the most intriguing match-ups on the field is between BYU’s Ryan Roundy and Life’s Cam Dolan. Considered by most the two best No. 8s in the country and sure-fire Eagle prospects, they are lights out runners from the base of the scrum and elsewhere. Roundy led DI-A in tries last year, and Dolan’s doing so this year. Wouldn’t be surprising to see these guys trade gashing runs.
Where Dolan has the edge in the match-up is the lineout. He’s much taller than Roundy and one of the best lineout operators, if not the best, in all of DI-A. As long as he’s on the field, Life will win its ball in the lineout.
Where Life could get in some trouble is in the scrums. The Running Eagles haven’t scrummed against a pack quite as good as BYU’s since losing to Cal in the quarterfinals last year. Life has to do better this time than they did against the Bears.
Both teams have elite goal kickers, and both have potent attacking backs, though they differ in style. At the end of the day, this game will likely be determined by the amount of possession Life is able to sustain. If it’s anywhere near 50/50, the Running Eagles could score the win.