BYU Cougars vs Arizona Wildcats
Saturday, September 3, 2016, 10:30 pm Eastern, TV: Fox Sports 1
University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Arizona
Opening Line: Arizona pick
Current Line: BYU -1 1/2
Opening Total: 63
Current Total: 61
Opening Money Line: Arizona -110 / BYU -110
Opening Money Line: BYU -125 / Arizona +105
The Brigham Young Cougars and Arizona Wildcats open the season Saturday night in Glendale, Arizona. The Wildcats lead the series 12-9-1 including 1-0 in neutral site games. Arizona won the last meeting 31-21 in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl.
BYU was 9-4 last year but the season ended with 35-28 loss to arch rival Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. Longtime coach Bronco Mendenhall left to take the Virginia job. Kalani Sitake will be the new head coach. Arizona was 7-6 last year under coach Rich Rodriguez. The Wildcats beat New Mexico 45-37 in the New Mexico Bowl.
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BYU averaged 425 yards including 297 passing and 128 rushing yards. The Cougars scored 34 points a game. BYU allowed 346 yards per game on defense including 202 passing yards and 144 rushing yards. BYU allowed 23 points per game. The Cougars were +2 in turnovers and forced 22 turnovers. BYU was 84/203 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents were 86/220. The Cougars averaged 58 penalty yards per game. BYU forced 40 sacks and allowed 33 last season. The Cougars were 50/53 scoring in the red zone with 39 touchdowns, and opponents were 34/44 with 26 touchdowns.
Quarterback Taysom Hill suffered a broken foot in the season opener against Nebraska. Freshman Tanner Mangum was brilliant throwing for 3,337 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Hill will start but Mangum could see some snaps.
Jamaal Williams is back but hasn’t been healthy in two seasons. He missed all of last season. He needs 929 yards to become the all-time leading rusher in BYU history. Algernon Brown was the leading rusher last year with 127 carries for 709 yards and 11 touchdowns, and caught 2 touchdowns. He will start at fullback. Hill is dual threat quarterback and will get plenty of carries too.
BYU loses their top two receivers in Mitch Mathews and Devon Blackmon. Nick Kurtz and Mitchell Juergens combined for 76 catches last year.
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Arizona averaged 495 yards per game on offense including 273 passing and 222 rushing yards. The Wildcats scored 37 points a game. On defense, Arizona allowed 468 total yards per game including 268 passing and 200 rushing yards. The Wildcats allowed 36 points per game. Arizona was -4 in turnovers and had 20 turnovers. The Wildcats averaged 49 penalty yards per game. Arizona was 88/217 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents were 106/227. The Wildcats forced 27 sacks and allowed 31 this season. Arizona was 54/65 scoring in the red zone with 41 touchdowns and opponents were 54/58 with 42 touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Anu Solomon was brilliant during his freshman year. He had two concussions last year as a sophomore though and his passing numbers dropped. He passed for 2,667 yards with 20 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He also rushed for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sophomore Brandon Dawkins and Khalil Tate have been competing to back him up. Jerrard Randall has graduated. He threw for 518 yards with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, and rushed for 702 yards with 5 touchdowns.
Running Back Jared Baker has also graduated after rushing for 798 yards and 9 touchdowns, and making 11 catches with a touchdown. Like Solomon, Nick Wilson had a very nice freshman year but struggled with injury as a sophomore last year. He had 133 carries for 725 yards and 8 touchdowns last year, down from 1,375 yards as a freshman. Orlando Bradford will also get some carries and could usurp Wilson as the starter if Wilson is injury prone again.
Arizona loses their top two receivers in Cayleb Jones (55 catches, 904 yards and 5 touchdowns) and Johnny Jackson (50 catches, 612 yards and 5 touchdowns.) Jones is with the Philadelphia Eagles now. David Richards is now with the Los Angeles Rams. He had 43 catches for 548 yards and 6 touchdowns. Nate Phillips is back after making 44 catches for 564 yards and 4 touchdowns. Samajie Grant had 31 catches for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns. Trey Griffey and converted cornerback Cam Denson will also get some catches. Josh Kern will start at tight end.
BYU is 6-2 ATS on grass, 2-5 against Pac 12 schools, and 0-4 in neutral site games.
Arizona is 2-5 ATS in non-conference games, 6-15 on grass, 2-7 in September, and 1-6 in in neutral site games.
Arizona struggled on defense last year to say the least. This could be a high scoring game with two explosive offenses, but BYU has a good defense. For that reason I like the Cougars to win a close game.