Date/Time: October 24, 9:00 p.m. ET
Spread: Boise State -6.5
Dreams of an undefeated season and tons of national recognition went down the drain when Taysom Hill suffered a season-ending leg injury against Utah State. Since then, the BYU Cougars have dropped all three games that they have played and it’s been the defense, a perennial strength of Bronco Mendenhall’s teams, that has let the Cougars down. The Cougars have scored 59 points in their last two games and have two losses to show for it. The Boise State Broncos aren’t going to show any sympathy and their offense is clicking on all cylinders right now with 88 points in two games since a 28-14 loss to Air Force. The Broncos are around a touchdown favorite for Friday night’s showdown on the blue turf.
The BYU Cougars were rolling at 4-0 and a perfect season looked like a possibility before quarterback and Heisman Trophy darkhorse Taysom Hill suffered a very ugly leg injury in the first half against Utah State. The Cougars failed to recover in that game and have found ways to lose in the two games since. All things considered, Christian Stewart has done an admirable job filling in for Hill. He was overwhelmed in the Utah State game and threw three interceptions on 20 pass attempts, but since then, Stewart has a 7/1 TD/INT ratio and has completed 61 percent of his passes.
The defense has been the scary part for BYU. The Cougars allowed 31 points and 389 yards to a UCF offense that looked positively awful the week before against Houston and then allowed a fourth quarter comeback by Nevada, in which the Wolfpack scored 42 points and picked up 411 yards. The yardage numbers aren’t bad, but the BYU defense has not gotten stops when it needs to. Nevada was 7-of-17 on third down and a perfect 4-for-4 on fourth down. Some key fumbles hurt BYU, but the loss of impact players like Kyle Van Noy and Uani ‘Unga, as well as injuries to defensive backs Craig Bills and Jordan Johnson have really hurt the unit overall.
The Boise State offense has found something under first-year head coach and former offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. The Broncos have averaged 485 yards of offense per game, even without leading receiver Matt Miller, whose season is over due to a leg injury. Grant Headrick’s stat line is rather interesting, with a completion percentage over 71 percent, but 10 interceptions against just eight touchdowns. Jay Ajayi had 34 more touches last week to put him at 207 for the season. Through seven games, Ajayi is averaging nearly 30 touches per game and 169 all-purpose yards.
Defensively, Boise State doesn’t appear to be the same team. They gave up 46 points to Nevada and 27 more to Fresno State. From 2008-11, Boise State allowed no more than 18 points per game. They allowed 24 points per game last season and Chris Petersen left to be the head coach at Washington. Under Harsin this season, the Broncos have given up 27 points per game. The Broncos had one of their worst defensive efforts of the season against BYU last year when they allowed 37 points and 568 yards. They’ll look for revenge in this one.
This is the first three-game losing streak for Bronco Mendenhall since 2010, when the Cougars went 7-6 overall and lost four straight games after a season-opening win at Washington. The Cougars are 4-3 straight up and just 2-5 against the number. This is Mendenhall’s 10th season with the Cougars and they are 86-37 straight up and 65-54-1 ATS. As a road dog, the Cougars are 12-8-1 under Mendenhall. Bryan Harsin’s Broncos are 5-2 straight up and 4-3 ATS in his first season. They are 2-1 ATS at home laying points this season.
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Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.