College Football Picks: BYU vs. Virginia in Week 1

Jeff Grant

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 3:23 PM GMT

The Virginia Cavaliers turned the ball over with great regularity a season ago, but they’ll likely be dangerous home underdogs in their opener against the BYU Cougars in 2013.


Let’s take a closer look at the college football odds for this non-conference matchup at Scott Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 31, with the opening kickoff scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU. 

Opening up on the road 

BYU went 8-5 straight up (SU) and 7-6 against the spread (ATS) in 2012, while the UNDER finished with a 7-5 advantage.   

The Cougars earned a trip to the Poinsettia Bowl—picking up a 23-6 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs as three-point neutral-site favorites.

The program is 3-8 in its last 11 road openers, which includes a 24-21 setback to in-state rival Utah in Week 3 of the 2012 campaign. 

Potential 

Virginia is certainly capable of improving upon its dismal 4-8 SU and 2-9-1 ATS record from a season ago, considering it returns 16 total starters—nine on offense and seven on defense. 

The Cavaliers out-gained opponents by a 518-yard margin last season, but were unable to overcome a minus-14 turnover differential. 

Opening up against BYU and Oregon is one of the more challenging early-season schedules nationally, which should properly motivate the program’s players. 

Expect a higher tempo

College football handicappers have grown accustom to the Cougars running a pedestrian offense under head coach Bronco Mendenhall in recent years, but the tempo is expected to pick up under first year offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

Dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill gained some valuable experience last year with the struggles of Riley Nelson, while the top seven wide receivers from a season ago return. 

All depends on the quarterback

The Cavaliers will have a new offensive coordinator in Tom O’Brien—landing in Charlottesville in this role after being the head coach at Boston College and NC State.  He’s known for developing quarterbacks, including the likes of Mike Glennon and Russell Wilson.

Phillip Sims and David Watford are expected to battle it out under center during the summer behind an offensive line that returns four starters, while their top five receiving options return from 2012.

Prediction 

I’m going to recommend that readers back the Cavaliers as one of their early Week 1 college football picks, as the Cougars are a mediocre 4-4 ATS as road favorites the last three seasons.

Week 1 College Football Pick:  Virginia Cavaliers +4 at BetOnline