The Boise State Broncos and the BYU Cougars could potentially be the two best non-Power 5 conference teams in the country as they meet in Provo Saturday night.
The two non-Power 5 conference schools with the best chance of crashing the College Football Playoff, or at least making a major bowl game, oppose each other Saturday night and the home underdog could have the edge when the Boise State Broncos (1-0, 0-1 ATS) pay a visit to those BYU Cougars (1-0, 1-0 ATS) at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, UT at 10:15 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has BYU as a small home underdog for this contest with the current line at +2½ with odds of -104.
Hail Mary Win at Nebraska
In perhaps the most dramatic game of opening weekend, BYU went into Lincoln and handed Nebraska its first Week 1 loss since 1985 by a 33-28 score on a 42-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass on the game’s final play from Tanner Mangum to Mitch Mathews. The Cougars had already given a fine account of themselves prior to that final winning pass though, going into a very difficult environment and out-gaining Nebraska 511-445.
Boise State was also the winning college football pick in its opener, but the Broncos were not impressive while nearly blowing a 16-0 halftime lead at home vs. Washington, in fact being held scoreless in the second half and barely holding on to win 16-13 as the Huskies missed a 46-yard field goal with 15 seconds left that would have almost certainly forced overtime on the blue turf.
And while both of these teams are longshots to make the Playoff even if they are indeed the two best non-Power 5 conference teams in the country, the loser of this game will then have practically no hope at all.
Hill Lost for the Season
As exhilarating as the end of the game for BYU was last week, not all the news was good as the reason Magnum was in the game to throw that game-winning pass was because Heisman Trophy hopeful Taysom Hill was lost for the season for the second straight year when he suffered a Lisfranc injury in his foot. Unlike last season though, when the Cougars went 0-4 in the next four games after Hill went down, they rallied around Magnum this time.
Magnum may be a freshman, but he is a mature 22-year-old that just returned from a two-year Mormon mission, and it showed as he was very poised while completing 7-of-11 passes for 111 yards including of course the Hail Mary, which accounted for his only touchdown pass.
Also, the BYU defense looks much improved over last season now that it is being run by head coach Bronco Mendenhall, as it held the normally devastating Cornhuskers’ rushing attack to just 3.4 yards per carry.
Issues on Offense
Boise State remains the only non-Power 5 school in the national rankings this week, but the Broncos may be a bit overrated to begin this season while breaking in a new quarterback and running back and that offensive unit certainly had its troubles vs. the Huskies. New starting quarterback Ryan Finley completed just 16-of-26 passes for 129 yards, equating to a miserable 5.0 yards per attempt, with an interception and no touchdown passes.
And while the Broncos had 185 rushing yards as a team, they needed 53 carries to do so for only 3.5 yards per carry. In BYU can stuff the run here as well as it did at Nebraska, can Finley be trusted with the game in his hands in his first start on the road after that shaky debut at home?
Yes, the Boise State defense was solid while holding Washington to just 179 total yards, but the BYU offense is a bigger challenge, especially in Provo, provided that Magnum can build on his solid performance in relief of Hill last week.
Can Boise Defense Do It Again?
Obviously, there is no margin for error for either of these teams if they want to crash a major bowl game at the end of the year, so the stakes here are huge for an early season game. And the fact that the Boise State defense played so well last week vs. a lesser Washington offense may not be such a good thing considering the Broncos are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.
We actually think that the wrong team might be favored here as the combination of Boise State being overrated and an overreaction to the injury to Hill seems to have skewed this line, so look for the underdogs from BYU to emerge triumphant straight up at home on Saturday.
College Football Pick: BYU +2½ (-104)