College Football Las Vegas Bowl Betting Picks: BYU Cougars vs #22 Utah Utes

2015 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Brigham Young Cougars vs #22 Utah Utes
Sam Boyd Stadium – Las Vegas, Nevada
Saturday, December 19, 2015, 3:30 pm Eastern, TV: ABC
Opening Line: Utah -2 1/2 (-112)
Current Line: Utah -2 1/2 (-115)
Opening Total: 54
Current Total: 49 1/2
Opening Money Line: Utah -140 / BYU +120
Current Money Line: Utah -140 / BYU +120

Utah takes on arch-rival BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl Saturday.
Utah takes on arch-rival BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl Saturday.

After a two year hiatus, the so called Holy War will be renewed in Sin City ironically enough. The 9-3 Utah Utes take on the 9-3 Brigham Young Cougars in the Las Vegas Bowl Saturday. The two teams haven’t played since 2013, and are meeting in a bowl for the first time in the series. The two rivals are located 42 miles apart.

BYU is 13-19-1 all time in bowl games, including 3-2 in the Las Vegas Bowl. BYU is playing in a bowl for the eleventh straight season. BYU lost to Memphis last year 55-48 in double overtime in the Miami Beach Bowl. The Cougars have lost two straight bowl games. Utah is 14-5 all-time in bowl games including 3-1 in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Utes beat Colorado State 45-10 in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl. Utah has won 11 of their last 12 bowl games.

Utah leads the series 57-34-4 against BYU. The series dates back to 1896, the same year Utah was granted statehood. Utah has won 4 straight games in the series including 20-13 in Provo in 2013. The teams will play each other again at least for the next five seasons starting next year in Salt Lake City.

BYU is coached by Bronco Mendenhall. Mendenhall accepted the head coaching position at Virginia but will coach in the bowl game. He has been the head coach at BYU for eleven seasons. No replacement has been named yet. The Cougars have road losses at UCLA 24-23, Michigan 31-0, and Missouri 20-16 in Kansas City. BYU has home wins over Boise State 35-24, Connecticut 30-13, East Carolina 45-38, Cincinnati 38-24, Wagner 70-6, and Fresno State 52-10, along with road wins at Nebraska 33-28, San Jose State 17-16 and Utah State 51-28 in the regular season finale. The Cougars have won 7 of the last 8 games.

BYU was a 3 point favorite against Utah State and the total was 51. The Aggies led 21-10 with 3:minutes to go in the first half. However, the Cougars would score 14 points in the last three minutes including a defensive touchdown to take a 24-21 lead into the locker room. BYU took control of the game with 2 third quarter touchdowns. Utah State pulled within 38-28 but would get no closer. BYU put the game away with two fourth quarter touchdowns to make the final margin 23 points. Utah State had 445 total yards to 358 for BYU but the Aggies were unable to overcome two turnovers. BYU is 8-4 ATS and the total is 6-6 this season.

Utah is coached by Kyle Whittingham. The Utes tied with USC at 6-3 for first in the Pac 12 South but the Trojans won the head-to-head meeting. At one point, Utah was the #3 team in the country, but they went 3-3 down the stretch after a 6-0 start. The Utes have road losses at USC 42-24 and Arizona 37-30 in double overtime, plus a home loss to UCLA 17-9. Utah has home wins over Michigan 24-17, Utah State 24-14, California 30-24, Arizona State 34-18, Oregon State 27-12 and Colorado 20-14 in the regular season finale, along with road wins at Fresno State 45-24, Oregon 62-20 and Washington 34-23.

Utah was a 16.5 point favorite against Colorado and the total was 48.5. Utah led 10-7 at halftime and would expand the lead to 20-7 by the end of the third. Colorado pulled to within 20-14 with just over four minutes left. The Buffaloes forced a three and out, but lost a fumble at the Utah 47 that ended hopes of a comeback. The teams combined for 7 turnovers. Utah is 5-7 ATS and the total is 6-6 this season.

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BYU is outscoring teams 34-22 this season. The Cougars are #35 or better in both categories. BYU averages 428 yards per game on offense including 295 passing amd 133 rushing yards. BYU is #44 in total offense, #21 in passing and #109 in rushing. On defense, the Cougars allow 358 total yards, including 213 passing and 145 rushing yards. BYU is in the top 50 in all three categories. The Cougars have forced 22 turnovers and have 15 of their own. BYU averages 58 penalty yards per game and opponents average 57. The Cougars are 74/184 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 79/201. BYU has forced 37 sacks and allowed 29 this season. The Cougars are 46/49 scoring in the red zone with 35 touchdowns, and opponents are 31/41 with 23 touchdowns. BYU has three defensive touchdowns this season.

Quarterback Tanner Mangum took over as the quarterback when Taysom Hill suffered a broken foot in the opening game of the season. Mangum has completed 62.1% of his passes for 3,062 yards with 21 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Beau Hoge has thrown for 137 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and has rushed for 49 yards with 2 touchdowns.

Running back Algernon Brown has 122 carries for 697 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus 11 catches for 62 yards and 2 touchdowns. Adam Hine has 64 carries for 326 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 4 catches. Francis Bernard has 45 catches for 276 yards and 6 touchdowns, plus 15 catches for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns. Nate Carter has 37 catches for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Receiver Mitch Matthews has 52 catches for 729 yards with 11 touchdowns. Devon Blackmon has 43 catches for 572 yards. Nick Kurtz has 35 catches for 522 yards and 2 touchdowns. Terenn Houk has 31 catches for 422 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mitchell Juergens has 32 catches for 416 yards and 2 touchdowns. Colby Pearson has 22 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown. Tight ends Bryan Sampson, Colby Jorgensen and Steven Richards are all out for the season. Three linebackers are also out for the season.

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Utah is outscoring teams 30-22 this season. The Utes are #32 nationally in points allowed this season. Utah averages 377 yards per game on offense, including 189 passing and 188 rushing. The Utes are #100 out of 128 teams in passing offense, and #85 in total offense. On defense, Utah is allowing 365 total yards including 253 passing and 112 rushing yards. The Utes are #97 in pass defense but #6 in rush defense. The Utes have forced 29 turnovers and have 21 of their own. Utah averages 51 penalty yards and opponents average 52. Utah is 91/205 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 78/196. The Utes have forced 33 sacks and allowed 20 this season. Utah is 39/43 scoring in the red zone with 25 touchdowns and opponents are 34/42 with 22 touchdowns. The Utes have six defensive/special teams touchdowns.

Quarterback Travis Wilson had has thrown for 2,024 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and has rushed 467 yards on 125 carries for 6 touchdowns. Kendal Thompson has thrown for 220 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and had rushed for 60 yards on 18 carries with 2 touchdowns. Chase Hansen is out for the season with a leg injury.

Running back Devontae Booker has 268 carries for 1,261 yards and 11 touchdowns, and has 37 catches for 318 yards. Booker also has a touchdown pass. He had knee surgery for a torn meniscus and is out for the bowl game. Joe Williams  has 79 carries for 386 yards, plus 9 catches.  Running backs Troy McCormick and Marcel Brooks-Brown are both out for the season.

Receiver Britain Covey has 41 catches for 518 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is doubtful for undisclosed reasons.  Kenneth Scott has 38 catches for 448 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is probable with a knee injury. Harrison Handley has 19 catches for 270 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tyrone Smith has 17 catches for 178 yards. Tight end Siale Fakailoatonga has 12 catches for 120 yards but is out for the season. Another tight end Evan Moeai is also out for the season. Receiver Tim Patrick is out for the season as well.

BYU is 10-2 ATS after rushing for less than 100 yards, 5-2 in December and after scoring 40 points or more. The underdog is 14-3 ATS in this series recently.

Utah is 8-2 ATS in bowl games and neutral site games, 6-2 in December, 8-3 after rushing for 200 yards or more, 7-3 after passing for 170 yards or less, 11-5 against teams with winning records, 39-18-2 in non-conference games, and 1-5 overall. The Utes have covered 5 of the last 6 games against the Cougars.

Both teams are banged up. Utah has really struggled on offense without Booker. I see those struggles continuing. I like the Cougars to pull off the upset despite the distractions of Mendenhall leaving.

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