Motivational Edge Makes BYU +3 the Las Vegas Bowl Pick Over Utah

Ross Benjamin

Friday, December 11, 2015 5:28 PM GMT

Our betting professional examines the Las Vegas Bowl matchup between BYU & Utah. Join us in reading this revealing betting preview article culminated with a college football pick.

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College Football Pick: BYU +3 (-115)
Best Line Offered: at Bovada

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
A couple of very familiar foes will meet in a bowl game on Saturday 12/19 when BYU (9-3) takes on Utah (9-3). The opening kickoff at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas is slated for 3:30 PM ET. Current (12/11) college football odds indicates that Utah is a 3 point favorite. This will be the 96th all time meeting between these schools on the gridiron. The former Mountain West Conference rivals haven’t met in each of the previous two seasons since Utah joined the PAC-12, and BYU opted for independent status. This contest was sold out less than 24 hours after the matchup was announced.

 

Key Injuries on Offense for Utes
Utah will be without their leading rusher Devantae Booker (1241 yards/11 TDS) who went down with a season ending knee injury on 11/14 in a game against Arizona. The Utes leading receiver Britain Covey (41 receptions, 518 yards, 4 TDS) is listed as doubtful due to an ankle injury.

 

Swan Song for Bronco Mendenhall
Bronco Mendenhall will be appearing his final game as head coach at BYU. Mendenhall accepted the head coaching vacancy at Virginia. During his 11 year tenure, BYU has gone a stellar 99-42 (.702), appeared in ten bowl games, and failed to have a winning record on just one occasion. It will certainly provide the Cougars with an additional emotional edge in this matchup against their in state rival.

 

Tale of the Tape
Utah started the season 6-0, and was ranked #4 in the AP Poll heading into a game seven matchup at USC. They were throttled by an inspired Trojans team by a score of 42-24, and finished 3-3 during its final six regular season games. They may be missing key personnel on offense, but their defense has been solid on the majority of occasions in 2015. The stop unit has allowed a very respectable 21.8 points and 358.1 yards per game.

BYU began the season with two heart throbbing wins over Nebraska and Boise State. Both victories came as a result of desperation last minute Hail Mary heaves by freshmen quarterback Tanner Mangum. The Cougars then lost their next two games at UCLA and at Michigan. However, they went 7-1 over their next eight games and enter this bowl contest with plenty of momentum. Speaking of Mangum, he set freshmen records at BYU by throwing for 3062 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. He was thrown into the fire after senior starting quarterback Taysom Hill broke his leg in the season opener at Nebraska, and was lost for the year. Considering the storied history of BYU quarterbacks, Mangum’s accomplishments are extremely impressive.

 

Final Thoughts and Pick
Utah has clearly faced tougher competition this season compared to BYU. After all, they possess signature wins over Michigan and at Oregon in 2015. My concern with the Utes is their state of mind. They went from a serious midseason contender for the 2015 college football playoff, and will be ending the year in a relatively minor bowl game against a familiar opponent.

I just can’t ignore the obvious emotional and motivational factors that BYU will possess. The Cougars will certainly want to “Win One for the Gipper” in Mendenhall’s final game. This can also serve as a statement game for the independent school (BYU) against an opponent (Utah) from a “Power Five Conference”.

My early lean is on the underdog, and one of my college football picks will indicate exactly that.