One of the fiercest rivalries in college football will be on display this weekend when the BYU Cougars host the Utah Utes. Kickoff is set for 10:15 EST on Saturday, September 9, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. The game can be seen on ESPN2.
BYU is currently listed as a 1.5-point favorite over their in-state rivals. That’s a drastic shift after Utah originally opened as 3.5-point favorites. Click here for a full list of Week 2 betting odds and links to game previews.
Utah vs BYUVegas Odds & Game Preview
BYU is already two games into its season, playing two completely different types of games. First, the Cougars took care of Portland State, a tough FCS team, winning 20-6. BYU then played a “neutral site” game in New Orleans against LSU, getting shut out by the Tigers 27-0.
Both games went as most would have expected for BYU, who continues to play football as an independent. Perhaps by design, the Cougars scheduled their biggest rivalry game the week after their most difficult game. By comparison, playing Utah shouldn’t be nearly as difficult as playing LSU. Of course, the Cougars may be lacking in confidence after getting shutout.
Utah, on the other hand, has played just one game this year, a 21-point victory over North Dakota. The Utes started the game slowly but eventually hit their stride and came away with a convincing victory against an inferior FCS team.
With the always-challenging Pac-12 schedule set to get underway in a couple weeks, a road trip to BYU should be good preparation for Utah. Of course, playing the Cougars is always the biggest game on the schedule for Kyle Whittingham’s team.
Free NCAAF Betting Prediction: Utah +1.5
It’s tough to place bets on rivalry games, especially one with the nickname “Holy War.” But with BYU becoming favorites, I’ll comfortably pick Utah to win as road underdogs. The Utes have taken six in a row in this rivalry, as well as 11 of the last 14. That’s a considerable amount of domination and makes the Utes difficult to pick against.
Utah is also a more established program that I trust more in big games when emotions are sure to run high. Whittingham has been at Utah for over a decade and he’s led Utah to at least nine wins and a top-25 ranking in each of the last three years. Meanwhile, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake is only in his second season at the helm. He’s still trying to create a winning culture.
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On the field, BYU doesn’t have the personnel to attack Utah’s weaknesses. The Utes have a strong front-7, holding North Dakota to two yards per rush in their opener. Utah’s secondary may be vulnerable, but the Cougars may not be able to exploit that. Quarterback Tanner Mangum understandably struggled against LSU. But he wasn’t all that sharp against Portland State either. The Cougars are also trying to figure out their go-to receivers after losing their top three pass catchers from last season.
Offensively, the Utes made the surprising move to go with sophomore Tyler Huntley over senior Troy Smith. Huntley has a nice collection of receivers at his disposal and settled in nicely during the opener. Utah can always decide to go back to Smith against BYU in the event Huntley struggles on the big stage. That’s a nice luxury to have in a big game.
All things considered, there’s little about BYU that stands out. The team lacks the kind of game breakers that are often necessary to win rivalry games like this, especially rivalries that have been one sided of late. The Utes should win the battle in the trenches on defense and challenge BYU with its playmakers on offense. I firmly expect the Utes to continue their domination of this rivalry.