College Football Picks ATS: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels at BYU Cougars

Jamaal Williams leads BYU in rushing yards (518, four TDs)
Jamaal Williams leads BYU in rushing yards (518, four TDs)

Time: 7 PM ET
Spread: BYU -26
Total: 62

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The 5-4 BYU Cougars haven’t had much success since opening the season with four straight victories, but after last week’s 27-7 win over Middle Tennessee, BYU is hoping to salvage this season by winning again over a poor UNLV team. The Cougars will host the Runnin’ Rebels as 26-point favorites in this affair.

Prior to last week’s victory, the Cougars had los four straight and allowed 35 points or more in three of the four games. A 31-24 heartbreaking OT loss to UCF on Oct. 9 was followed by a one-TD loss to Nevada a week later. Boise State has been really tough offensively, too, but giving up 55 points is inexcusable, even for a defense that allows 27.2 points per game on average.

Cougars senior QB Christian Stewart has struggled this season, with just a 120.2 passer rating. He looked good against Middle Tennessee last week, and he had a monster game against Nevada. In the contest against Nevada he threw for 408 yards on 39-of-63 passing while also rushing for 47 yards as well.

In the backfield, the Cougars have received solid production from both Jamaal Williams and Tayson Hill, who have combined for nearly 1,000 yards between them. Hill has rushed for eight TDs with a 5.3 yard per carry average.

Stewart has had two good passing targets in Mitch Mathews and Jordan Leslie. Both average 10-plus yards per reception, and Williams has scored five TDs on the season. BYU has balanced its scores well, with 18 coming via the rush and 17 coming in the air.

UNLV might be happy to be playing against an Independent school this week after having lost five of six against Mountain West foes. Last week, the Runnin Rebels were unable to contain a dominant Air Force offense, giving up 48 points in a game which saw UNLV score just 21 itself. UNLV averages only 20 points per game this season, not getting much from its rush game.

At QB, Blake Decker has thrown 14 INTs to just 10 TDs, and no UNLV running back averages more than 4.5 yards per carry. Keith Whitley has that team-high average but has just two TDs on the season, while Decker has had good success reaching the end zone (five TDs), but averages just 2.4 yards per carry.

Shaquille Murray-Lawrence is a good short yardage back with 3.6 yards per carry but a team-high six TDs on the year. All in all, having a decent backfield, a bad quarterback and an atrocious defense is how a team comes to be 2-8 in a softer conference with an easy non-conference schedule. UNLV faced no ranked opponents this year.

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