The BYU Cougars (6-6) will face off against the Western Michigan Broncos (7-5) in the 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Kickoff is set for 3:30 EST on Friday, December 21st at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, ID. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Oddsmakers opened this line up at BYU -11, but it’s continued to creep up and as of right now the Cougars are either a 12 or 12.5 point favorite depending on where you shop. The total for this matchup is currently sitting at 49.5 points.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Betting Line: BYU vs Western Michigan
The Broncos did most of their damage in the middle chunk of the season, as they won 5 straight after starting out 0-2 with losses to Syracuse and Michigan. They did avoid going into their bowl game with a 28-21 win at home in the final game of the regular season. All that magic that was created with P.J. Fleck back in 2016 seems to be long gone, as Western Michigan is now just 13-11 under Tim Lester.
Last year the Broncos went 6-6, but were passed up for a bowl game. Largely due to the fact that the team was so decimated with injuries. Lester won’t have to do a lot to improve on Western Michigan’s bowl success. The Broncos have been to 8 bowl games and only walked away with 1 win.
While the Cougars are coming off a mere 6-6 regular season, it was a pleasant site for a team that had gone just 4-9 the previous year. BYU had two road wins over Power 5 opponents in their first 3 games of the year, as they won 28-23 at Arizona and 24-21 at then No. 6 Wisconsin. They should have added another in their finale at Utah, but the Cougars somehow managed to blow a 20-0 halftime lead.
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake guided the Cougars to a 24-21 win in the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl over Wyoming, which was his first bowl game as a head coach. It snapped a streak of 3 straight bowl losses for BYU.
2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Free Pick & Predictions: BYU -12
My early lean here would be to go ahead and lay the double-digits with BYU. Typically when you have a double-digit favorite in a bowl game, the public is all over that team, but with less than a week until kickoff it’s pretty much 50/50 action, with a slight lean if anything to Western Michigan.
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My guess is the public just doesn’t feel all that confident laying this many points with a BYU team that only finished the year 6-6. I get it, but a closer look at this thing and it’s really hard to see the Broncos making a game of this.
Western Michigan had a mere 3 wins the entire season by more than a touchdown and those were against Deleware State, who is an FCS team that finished the year 3-8. The other two were against a 2-10 Georgia State team and 1-11 Central Michigan team.
While they did have a couple of nice wins over Miami (OH) and Eastern Michigan in MAC play, both those came before they lost starting quarterback Jon Wassink to a season-ending injury. The only reason they didn’t finish the year on a 4-game losing streak, is because Northern Illinois was resting their starters in the finale, as they had already clinched a spot in the MAC Championship Game.
Prior to holding Northern Illinois to 21 points, the Western Michigan defense had given up 42 to Ball State, 59 to Ohio and 51 to Toledo in their previous 3 games. BYU is going to have a field day against this defense. I think a lot of people just look at the fact that the Cougars only averaged 25.4 ppg on the season and think they aren’t all that great.
What they need to realize is just how many good defenses they played. They played Arizona, Cal, Wisconsin, Washington and Utah from the Power 5. They also played 3 of the top Group of 5 defenses in Utah State, Northern Illinois and Boise State.
I also like the move BYU made to true freshman quarterback Zach Wilson. He started the final 6 games and completed 62.2% of his attempts with a 8-3 TD-INT ratio. He also averaged 7.7 yards/attempt, which was quite an improvement over Tanner Magnum’s 5.8 yards/attempt. Magnum also had a mere 5-4 TD-INT ratio.
While BYU figures to be scoring at will, I think the Cougars defense is going to make it real tough on the Western Michigan offense. The Broncos have some decent skill players, but this was not the same high-powered offense once Wassink went down. They will struggle to run against this BYU defense, which only gave up 3.7 yards/carry despite the brutal schedule they faced. Give me the Cougars -12.5.