Take The Chalk When Betting On BYU vs. Arizona In Cactus Kickoff Classic

Arizona Wildcats

Friday, September 2, 2016 7:09 PM GMT

New offensive and defensive schemes collide when BYU travels to Phoenix to take on Arizona, and we've got a free college football pick for the Cougars and Wildcats.

Just in case you haven't had enough football this Saturday when the moon is already high in the sky over half of the Lower 48, a battle between former conference rivals is on the late-night docket when the BYU Cougars take on the Arizona Wildcats.

Technically, it's a neutral site affair at the University of Phoenix Stadium in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, but there should be a preponderance of Wildcats fans among a smattering of blue-clad rooters showing up to support the Cougars for the 10:30 PM (ET) boot. FOX Sports 1 is carrying the broadcast, and the spread is close to a pick 'em at -1 to -1½ on Arizona.

5Dimes has it -1½ a day in advance of the contest, and the same shop is carrying 61 for the scoreboard barrier, that number up a half in the previous 24 hours.

It's the first meeting between the schools in almost eight years, that clash coming in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl. Brigham Young had BCS aspirations at one point that campaign, only to settle for a lower-tier bowl invite and ultimately lose to Arizona by a 31-21 count. The teams had split a home-&-home series the previous two seasons, each winning on their own field and BYU covering the NCAA football odds each time.

They met regularly in the 60s and 70s as rivals in the old Western Athletic Conference. Their first encounter was way back in 1936, and Arizona holds a 12-9-1 edge in the series.

 

Sitake Returns To Alma Mater As Head Coach
For those of you who have not had time to really delve into college football schedules this year, BYU is on practically everyone's list for having a very tough slate ahead. It's especially difficult the first two months, with this matchup vs. Arizona one of the easier games in that span. Among only four independents at the FBS level, the Cougars have a tough trip to Utah on deck, then home to face UCLA and a long trip east to Maryland for another neutral-site affair against West Virginia.

October brings road dates at Michigan State and Boise State plus a home game vs. Mississippi State.

There has been some talk recently that BYU's independent status might change with the Big 12 looking to expand. That won't be until next year at the earliest, however, and the good news for 1st-year head coach Kalani Sitake is the Cougars return 15 starters from last year. That includes QB Taysom Hill who suffered a season-ending injury in BYU's 2015 opener at Nebraska.

 

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'Cats Must Get Better On Defense
Rich Rodriguez is also welcoming many familiar faces back down in Tucson, 16 starters total with nine of them on the defensive side. Hopefully that experience will add up to better results than 2015 when the Wildcats had one of the most porous stop units in the country, ranking 115th in total yards allowed (467 ypg) and 106th in scoring (35.8 PPG).

Anu Solomon returns under center after throwing for more than 2,600 yards, 20 scores and just five picks. The Wildcats also get Nick Wilson back to run the football, but Solomon is breaking in a lot of new receivers after four of the top five from 2015 departed.

The moon will actually just be starting to rise in Phoenix for the 7:30 PM (MST) boot, and the weatherman is calling for a hot one in the area during the day. Thermometers are expected to rise as high as 105º F in the afternoon, leaving things still in the low-to-mid 90s for the kickoff. Clear skies are in the forecast along with a 10 mph SW breeze.

Both teams are working with new coaches, BYU an entire staff with shifts on both offensive and defensive schemes while Arizona breaks in a new DC and philosophy. That makes this free college football pick a bit of a coin flip for me, and I'm willing to lay the thin chalk on the Wildcats.

 

Free NCAAF pick: Arizona -1½ 
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes
Season: 2-0 (+2.45)

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