Dick Harmon: Tanner Mangum will need to be at his best if Cougars hope to upset LSU

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

BYU QB Tanner Mangum, shown here against Portland State in Provo in the season opener, will need to bring his A Game if the Cougars hope to pull off an upset over LSU on Saturday.

NEW ORLEANS — Tanner Mangum and the BYU Cougars have a great opportunity in the Big Easy Saturday night.

Thing is, nothing about BYU’s matchup with No. 13 LSU in the Superdome will be easy.

But, thinking of that old Beach Boys song, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” it would be nice if BYU’s junior quarterback found a way to co-author an upset of the Tigers deep in SEC territory.

He’d have to play significantly better than he did in the season opener against Portland State. In fact, Mangum would need to be almost flawless and BYU’s defense would have to wreck LSU’s new offensive design if the Cougars were to pull it off.

BYU is more than a two-touchdown underdog to LSU.

It won’t be all on Mangum if BYU loses.

But if the Cougars are to claw away and beat LSU, school history dictates it will be because Mangum makes big plays and delivers drama at crucial times. For the Cougars, this X-factor is the deciding factor in these kind of games. See Jim McMahon circa 1980 against SMU, Robbie Bosco in a perfect season in 1984, Ty Detmer against Miami in 1990, Steve Sarkisian against Texas A&M in 1996, John Beck to Jonny Harline in Rice-Eccles in 2006, and Max Hall versus Oklahoma in Dallas in 2009.

At BYU, quarterback play has to be the great equalizer over teams with more depth, speed and recruits.

Mangum, for all the hype of fall camp, still must prove he can star in Ty Detmer’s pro-style offense. He got a warmup against Portland State. He was just OK, nothing fancy.

BYU will need to attack LSU’s young linebackers, be successful physically on the line with the run game, and protect the heck out of Mangum’s dimpled chin.

“It’s time to show the country we’re here to play and have a payoff for all the work we’ve done,” said one of his protectors, O-lineman Thomas Shoaf, who has the assignment of protecting Mangum’s blind side from LSU’s speed rushers.

“Tanner has done really well,” said Shoaf. “We…

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