Utah State at BYU
Time: 8 PM CT, Friday
Spread: BYU -2.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
FBS Independent BYU Is 3-2 after falling 7-35 to then-No. 11 Washington in Week 5. This week, the Cougars host Utah State in a rivalry matchup as 2.5-point favorites. The game will air at 8 PM (CT) on ESPN2, and it has an over/under set at 55 points according to college football oddsmakers at 5dimes.
BYU has been anything but consistent early in this season. It somehow knocked off then-No. 6 Wisconsin, but it lost the week prior (week 2) to Cal. There is hardly a rhyme or reason to its defense, which is—overall—superb. The Cougars have held opponents to an average of just 20.6 points per game, while barely managing to top that mark on its own, scoring just 21.4 per contest (No. 115). Neither its pass nor rush attack is particularly good, with both ranks outside the top-100 FBS schools. Its defense simply keeps it in games and gives it a chance. Last week’s 35 points were the most scored against the Cougars, with all prior teams failing to top 24 points.
Part of the problem is a lack of receivers. Tanner Mangum is an accurate passer at 62 percent, but he averages just 5.64 yards per attempt. His top receiver Aleva Hifo is an aberration among the receiving core, with his 10.1 yards per reception, but BYU still only has three receivers with more than 100 yards on the season, and that includes Matt Bushman, who has caught just six passes (albeit for a gain of 18.2 yards per).
Squally Canada does the bulk of the work out of the backfield, and he has been relatively effective with 4.9 yards-per-carry and 335 yards on the season. Lopini Katoa, too, is good for 5 yards per. The problem comes both from a lack of attempts on a team-wide basis, and the fact that Mangum is something of a disaster rushing from the pocket with his negative-29 yards on the season, on 12 carries. That is something unlikely to change, but BYU has to figure out a way to get more out of his mediocre arm because the Cougars just are not airing it out very often. The longest pass play of the season was Bushman’s 39-yard catch, but aside from a few 30-yard pass plays (including a touchdown), BYU relies on short routes and short rushes.
It is a recipe for falling short, and the team also has something of a mediocre placekicker. Skyler Southam is 5 of 7 on field goals, but he has missed 2 of 4 from beyond 40-yards.
Utah State lost week 1 to Michigan State, but it has won three straight since that predictable loss. Victories over New Mexico State, Tennessee Tech and Air Force have propelled it to a 3-1 record and a first-place standing in the Mountain West Conference. Better still, none of those three weak opponents came anywhere near victory, as the Aggies won by a combined 175 to just 57. Air Force came within 10-points, but that was the closest to a scare Utah State received.
Jordan Love has spearheaded one of the best passing offenses in the nation, ranking No. 29 at 284.5 yards per game, and last week against Air Force he set his career high with 356 yards and two TDs. Love is now 90 of 135 (66.7 percent) for 1,070 yards and five TDs. He has thrown three picks, but he averages 7.93 yards per attempt, and his receivers are deep and talented. Ron’Quavion Tarver leads the way with 228 yards, while Dax Raymond has also topped 200-yards already on the season.
The depth behind them does its job too, with Jordan Nathan, Jalen Greene, and Aaren Vaughns all topping 100-yards on the season already. Perhaps most impressively, Utah State is hardly handicapped on the ground. Despite not relying heavily on the rush, the Aggies average 5.6 yards-per-attempt as a team, and its top two rushers, Gerold Bright and Darwin Thompson, are good for 7.2 and 9.5 yards-per-carry, respectively.
This strong offense will get to test itself against the Cougars’ top-tier defense, but as just 2.5-point dogs we like the Aggies chances of a minor upset here in Week 6. BYU is just all too likely to fail with its offensive attack, and if the Aggies play smart football and avoid turnovers, it should be able to emerge with another big win to extend its win streak to four.