One of the surprise teams so far in this young 2021 college football season has been the #16 BYU Cougars who have run through three straight PAC-12 opponents to find themselves sitting at 3-0 through three. For the Bulls, an FCS opponent in Florida A&M was needed last week to find the win column, after two losses to open up the season.
Let’s take a closer look at two teams trending in the opposite directions.
While the verdict could still very well be out on if this BYU team is legit it or not, the case for the “yes” is certainly trending in the right direction. After starting off the season with a mediocre road win at Arizona, the Cougars have knocked off two straight teams (ASU & Utah) that were preseason contenders to win the PAC-12 South.
Led by quarterback Jaren Hall, the Cougars have overachieved thus far as they have started more freshmen than anyone in the country, and in addition to having to replace first-round draft pick, Zach Wilson, at QB, also rebuild much of their line. The defense has risen to the occasion as well, allowing just 17 points per game while forcing six turnovers over their last two games.
For the Bulls, the failed Charlie Strong experiment is in the rearview as second-year head coach Jeff Scott now faces the challenge of getting this program to national relevance. In year #2, tough matchups at NC State and vs. Florida have proved too much out of the gates, and now the Bulls head west to a raucous LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Half the battle for this USF team, in addition to a defense that hasn’t been able to stop much, is finding the right guy at quarterback. Last week vs. Florida A&M, freshman Timmy McClain got the start and played well, throwing for 163 yards and a touchdown, in addition to running for another 51.
While BYU is far from a paper tiger, I still have my hesitations on this team as a top 15 team. Struggling on the road out of the gates vs. Arizona, an emotional win vs. Utah was followed up by one of the sloppiest games from Arizona State that I have seen in recent memory. In addition to the 4 turnovers, ASU also had 121 yards in penalties that helped BYU secure the 10 point win; also inflated by a late touchdown in the final minute of the game.
These two last played just two years ago in Tampa, a 27-23 win for the Bulls in which they were 4.5-point underdogs. Looking for their first win over a ranked opponent since 2016, I think we a similar type of effort from the Bulls as they keep this one close into the second half.
Pick: USF Bulls +23.5
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