Las Vegas Bowl: BYU vs Utah
The big news coming into this game is that is BYU HC Mendenhall's final game for BYU after suddenly accepting an offer from Virginia. He and the Cougars will be playing for his 100th win as head coach. The fact that he's staying on to coach through the Bowl game is reason enough not to dock BYU as far as I'm concerned (and historically having an interim coach for a Bowl game has made no difference overall) . As for Utah, they ended up being really good at one this thing year (other than special teams) -- run defense. They ended up with my 8th ranked run defense. In 8 of their 12 games they had "best" qualifying run defense performances, while never having a "worst." The only team that rushed for a higher ypc than they usually do against the Utes was Fresno, of all teams. That was in week 3, and it was in the second half of the season that Utah's run defense really excelled. At the same time, Utah's pass defense played above average in the first half of the season but then slightly below average in the second half. That ends up being a pretty good match up for BYU, who is pretty bad at running the ball, but pretty good (26th best) at passing the ball. Take away the ostrich sized egg they laid at Michigan and BYU has averaged over 300 yards passing per game and 8 yards per pass. BYU's defense has been pretty average, but then again so has Utah's offense, who will still be without top RB Booker without their best WR, Britain Covey, as well. This should be a close game, with plenty of fans from both schools making the short trip to Las Vegas. I project a small BYU victory, which is why I recommended a play on BYU +3 when the line was available, and a small play on the Under as well.