1. BYU had to fight it out a bit with Portland State. Concern, or happy to knock the rust off a little?
Mixed feelings. BYU went very vanilla in it's play calling not only to hold back for LSU & Utah, but they wanted to see what players could do in basic one-on-one situations. So while some of the basic runs and calls were understandable, it would have been nice for BYU to beat up on a FCS team based on shear talent.
BYU had some dumb penalties, especially with chop blocks, so the hope is the first game worked out some of the kinks.
2. One of the big subplots of this game will be the Cougars' maturity with so many former missionaries on the roster. Do you feel that this is a true advantage or more of just a narrative that gets thrown out there?
The missionary program for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) has advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is seen in maturity. 18/19 year olds go out all over the world with little supervision and are expected to follow a strict schedule. They wake up at 6:30 everyday, study the Bible and other church-related materials for a few hours, and then hit the streets and homes of prospective "investigators" in hopes of finding those that are interested in the message. You can't have romantic relationships during this 2-year period, and family communication is limited to a weekly email, and a single phone call on Mother's Day and Christmas, all with the scope of keeping the missionary focused on the work. Choosing to live this strict schedule accelerates maturity during this time of the missionary's life.
Conversely, the physical aspect is a disadvantage. The only physical activity allowed is 30 minutes of exercise in the morning, which — at best — consists of push ups and sit ups. If you're lucky, you might be able to toss around a football once a week, and that's if you're in an area of the world where people know how to play football. Many missionaries live two years in South America, Africa, and other similar parts of the world, so their diets are often poor and disease can be had easily.
If living two years in foreign country with very little physical training and no football growth was an advantage, more programs would send players away on service missions all throughout the world.
3. The Cougs have some imposing players in 6-7, 410-pound Mo Langi and 6-9 lineman Corbin Kaufusi — do they play a large role on this team?
Mo Langi is already turning into a legend of sorts. A native of Tonga, Langi has never played football in his life until this year. Coaches have taught him the absolute basics, but he is now playing special teams (field goal block and protection units). With his shear size, there is a good chance he'll cause some havoc and directly or indirectly cause blocks. With 6-9 starting defensive end Corbin Kaufusi also on special teams, BYU could cause problems for opponents on field goals.
4. LSU will have a clear speed advantage here, especially on the edge. How do you think BYU will try to counteract that?
BYU runs a pro-style system, where they typically huddle up. Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer incorporates a style where BYU will play physical, and try to put themselves in third-and-short situations where they can complete first downs and control time of possession. Freshman tight end Matt Bushman showed immense promise in camp, and was one of the few offensive bright spots against Portland State. With LSU having a clear advantage against BYU's receivers, BYU will look to target Bushman often to counteract the speed advantage on the outside.
5. So how do you see this game playing out?
BYU is not a team that gets blown out often. BYU has a history of getting up for early season games versus P5 teams (2009 vs #3 Oklahoma, 13/14 vs Texas, '16 vs Arizona), so I expect BYU to keep the game close, and rely on their defense to keep them in it. I expect BYU's defense to keep it close for 3 quarters, but I ultimately think LSU's talent advantage will prevail and have the Tigers pull away in the fourth quarter.