The independent that seemed to get better as the season went on looks like a dangerous team vs. a Pac-12 team playing under an interim coach for this one bowl game when the BYU Cougars (8-4) take on the Washington Huskies (8-4) in the Fight Hunger Bowl from AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA on Friday, December 27th at 9:30 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has BYU as a small underdog for this contest with the current line at +3 with odds of -112.
Both of these teams went 8-4 during the regular season, but the surprising BYU offense seemed to get better as the year went on as dual threat quarterback Taysom Hill continued to improve as a passer. The Cougars first sent notice by upsetting Texas 40-21 behind 550 rushing yards early in the season and they then got progressively better offensively as they gained more balance with better passing.
Washington knows all about offense after finishing the regular year eighth in the country in total offense with 514.3 yards per game while averaging 38.5 points. However, the architect if that offense, Coach Steve Sarkisian, has jumped ship to USC, and while the Huskies are excited about their new coaching hire in former Boise State head man Chris Peterson, he will not take over until the off-season. Plus there is a chance that Washington is disappointed to land here.
After beginning the season 1-2, the Cougars went 7-2 the rest of the way with the two losses both coming by exactly 10 points on the road at Wisconsin and Notre Dame. In fact, BYU deserves a lot of credit for taking on a schedule ranked 35th in the country in SOS when, as an Independent, the school could have just as easily scheduled more cupcakes. That strong schedule can only help the Cougars here.
As for Hill, he was sitting on a dreadful 35.1 percent completion percentage during the 1-2 start, so although he finished the season completing an unspectacular 54.1 percent of his passes overall, the fact of the matter is that he completed 62.0 percent of his passes for 1901 yards over his last nine games while leading the offense to 34.1 points per game in those contests.
Of course Hill is more dangerous with his legs as he did lead the Cougars with his 1211 rushing yards on 5.9 yards per carry, but when he is passing effectively, the BYU offense has become hard to stop.
Washington finally got to eight wins this season after finishing an identical 7-6 each of the last three years under the now departed Sarkisian, but the Huskies still would have preferred a later bowl than this given that they finished third in the Pac-12 North behind only Stanford and Oregon. It also remains to be seen how they will react being between coaches.
But back to the football field, Washington is facing a BYU defense that probably grades out better than any defense the Huskies have faced this season except for Stanford, but the bigger issue is on the other side of the ball where the Huskies are ranked only 60th in the country in rushing defense allowing 159.8 yards per game on the ground on 4.2 yards per carry.
That is one area where BYU can do a lot of damage with the running of Hill and the running backs, especially if Hill completes some passes early to force Washington to respect the pass. With that in mind, we recommend taking the points in what looks like a mild upset.
College Football Pick: BYU +3 (-112)