Utah State vs. BYU Analysis & Predictions
Utah State Aggies (1-3 SU, 0-4 ATS) vs. Brigham Young Cougars (3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS)
When: Thursday, September 29, 8 p.m.
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
Point Spread: USU +23.5/BYU -23.5
Total: O/U 61.5
The dreaded Alabama hangover seems to be all over Utah State football this season, as the Aggies have seen their season spiral over the past three weeks. Utah State wasn’t expected to be a strong team this season, but the Aggies did expect to do a heck of a lot better than what they managed against UNLV and Weber State. Losing to Alabama was expected, but the 55-0 rout took a lot out of Utah State, which then lost by four touchdowns to a Big Sky opponent in Weber State. With a third of the season gone, Utah State looks lost in a fog.
And that’s not a great situation with BYU next on the schedule. The Cougars came to earth on a trip to Oregon, but other than that poor showing in Eugene, BYU has looked like a top opponent. The Cougars managed to handle Baylor in double overtime at home and eased past the likes of South Florida and Wyoming on the strength of their powerful offense. The defense, however, is showing serious signs of becoming a problem, as the Cougars have allowed all four opponents to hit 20 points or more on the season. That might not be an issue in this game, but the Cougars are going to have to get that fixed if they’re going to take care of teams who are closer to Oregon’s level.
How the Public is Betting the Utah State/BYU Game
The public is solidly with the Cougars, but the money is going the other way. Even though 76% of tickets are on Brigham Young, the spread has ticked down from -24 to -23.5. The total has gone up from 60.5 to 61.5.
Running back John Gentry (undisclosed) is questionable. Defensive tackle Phillip Paea (knee) and wide receiver Kyle Van Leeuwen (knee) are out.
Defensive lineman Earl Tuioti-Mariner (undisclosed) and wide receiver Gunner Romney (ankle) are questionable.
When Utah State Has the Ball
If the Aggies would stop turning the ball over, they might actually be decent. However, they have been their own worst enemy since somehow winning the turnover battle against Alabama. After managing to get through the trip to Tuscaloosa without a single giveaway, the Aggies turned it over ten times in their past two games, including a minus-6 against UNLV last week.
The Aggies’ passing attack puts up a fair amount of yards with Logan Bonner slinging the ball, but he’s made far too many poor decisions to get Utah State in a position to win games. Last time out, he threw for 313 yards and three scores, but he also turned the ball over five times and consistently gave the Runnin’ Rebels short fields. There’s a reason that Utah State hasn’t held any of its past three opponents below 34 points, and it’s because the offense keeps gifting the opponent with short fields.
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When BYU Has the Ball
The win over Wyoming showed that the Cougars could win this game in one of two ways, as they can either attack through the air with Jaren Hall tossing to Keanu Hill, or they can use the ground game with Miles Davis. Either one is likely to work against Utah State, given that the Cougars’ passing game has aired it out against everyone they’ve played, and the Aggies’ front seven are actually allowing more rushing yards than passing yards.
And that’s why this is a tough prediction to make: BYU will have to make a concerted effort to change its play style in order to attack Utah State’s biggest weakness. The Aggies haven’t really stopped anyone on the ground this season, and even though Davis only got 13 carries last week, Wyoming couldn’t do a thing to slow him down. BYU’s history this year says that the Cougars are willing to change things up when the situation warrants it: they went for 315 yards on the ground on 36 carries against South Florida, the only time this season where they’ve faced a bad run defense. Otherwise, the rest of the schedule has been filled with weak secondaries, which led them to turn to Hall.
On the one hand, Utah State has a history of performing well when it gets out of Logan. The loss at Alabama broke a five-game streak of covering away from home (although it could be that this just was a new team not playing up to expectations). They’ve also done well when going to Provo: they’ve covered in five of six against BYU, and the road team is 8-2 in their past ten matchups.
That said, the Aggies have been an auto-fade this season, as they’ve got no covers in four games. They’ve also been an automatic under play, as the under has cashed in five consecutive Utah State games and six straight games out of conference. BYU has tended to be an over team when it’s at home, covering in four of five games in Provo, but when facing Utah State, the defense usually rules the day. In the past seven matchups at home, the under has hit five times.
These could be poor conditions for throwing the ball, depending on when the thunderstorm in the area is scheduled to move over the stadium. Temperatures will plunge into the 60s during the game, with a 40% chance of thunderstorms. Wind shouldn’t be a big issue, blowing south at seven miles per hour.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
The Aggies looked a little bit better in some aspects last time out, but they’re making so many mistakes that it’s tough to trust them to do anything. The under looks like the play here, given that I don’t think these teams can put up enough points with BYU opting to take to the ground and Utah State likely again shooting itself in the foot.
If I have to make a play on the spread, I’m going with BYU.