College Football Rivalry: Utah Utes vs. BYU Cougars Week 1 Preview, Prediction & Best Bet

Jason Radowitz previews and gives his prediction on the best bet for Thursday’s rivalry match-up between Utah and BYU.

A big rivalry match-up to open things up on Thursday? Sign me up! Utah will take on BYU in Provo, the home of BYU. The Utah Utes and the BYU Cougars meet in week 1 non-conference, rivalry college football action from LaVell Edwards Stadium on Thursday night. 

Utah is coming in as a potential Pac-12 South champion after finishing last season 9-5 overall where they lost to the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 title game by the score of 10-3. Utah then lost in their bowl game against Northwestern 31-20. BYU, on the other hand, went 7-6 last season but destroyed Western Michigan in the Idaho Potato Bowl. 

Utah

Utah’s quarterback Tyler Huntley will be back playing quarterback after missing the final five games of 2018 with a broken collarbone. Huntley’s ability to move around the pocket and make plays happen will be key for the Utes’ season. The now senior has averaged a QB rating of 140 in his first two seasons where he started. His running back, Zack Moss, was also banged up towards the end of the year. Moss had just under 1,100 yards rushing along with 11 touchdowns in just nine games. Moss, who will also be a senior will give Utah a lot of experience offensively. Their leading receiver is also returning. Britain Covey caught 60 balls for 637 yards. The offense averaged about 28 points per game on 400 yards a game. On the defensive side of the ball, they’ll return some key players that finished 4th in the country in defending the rush. Utah has one of the nation’s best defensive lines. 

BYU

For BYU, Zach Wilson will be introduced as the BYU starter for his sophomore season. Last year, Wilson threw for 1,578 yards, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions after completing 66 percent of his passes. BYU has added Ty’Son Williams, the transfer out of South Carolina. He’ll pick up the work load with Lopini Katoa as the back-up. Wilson has playmakers at receiver and tight end along with a solid offensive line unit that gained another year of experience last season. BYU’s offense will be exciting.

BYU lost Sione Takitaki to the NFL which definitely hurts. Zayne Anderson and Chris Wilcox will be key factors on the defense with Takitaki in the NFL, as long as those two are now healthy after an off-season surgery for both of them.

Khyiris Tonga will be the key to the defensive line and Dayan Ghanwoloku will lead the secondary for a BYU defense that was top-20 last season in terms of total defense. As a team, BYU averaged 365.3 yards of total offense and 27.2 points per game last season.

The Verdict

Looking at the numbers and expectations, it’s easy to look at Utah and crown them week 1 winners in this rivalry. But in most games between these two opponents, you can expect a one-possession game going into the final minutes. That’s the trend. I like Utah here, but with giving five points, I don’t think it’s worth it. So I’ll take Utah on the moneyline where you can find them -200 or better. I also like the under 48 with both defenses at the top in defensive statistical categories. Sure, both offenses will be improved this season, but it’s week 1. Did you watch Miami/Florida and Arizona/Hawaii? Nothing will be perfect on Thursday night. The stadium will be loud which will hurt the Utah offense to start the game. A couple mistakes early offensively and the under looks enticing. 

Utah Utes  -200 Moneyline @Sugarhouse 

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