The most confounding puzzles of football are usually the simplest. What’s the best way to engineer a running game, punish a defense with the pass first, or bull them off the ball? Is a great defensive team ultimately superior to an all-offense program?
And then there are those final scores. It’s not possible not to be influenced by final scores. When the odds-maker sees “40-14” on the scoreboard, her tendency is to think “weak defense” before looking at any of the stats or game footage.
The BYU Cougars do not have a weak defense. They have the same kind of competitive, limited unit that they’ve been battling with for the past few years. The Cougars are 2-7 in 2017 because their heralded QB has struggled, playing behind a shaky offensive line and with a dearth of weapons.
But their defense has looked bad on the score-sheet. That’s probably why sports books are giving them long odds to prevail this Saturday night, when they visit Fresno State.
Even though the Bulldogs are having some issues of their own.
Who: BYU Cougars at Fresno State Bulldogs
When: Saturday, November 4th, 10:45 PM EST
Where: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, CA
Lines: BYU (+14) at Fresno State (-14) / O/U Total: (49)
The Bulldogs were stunned 26-16 by visiting UNLV last weekend, a game in which the defense throttled Johnny Stanton’s passing game but the Fresno offense couldn’t get anything going when it counted. Exciting junior KeeSean Johnson caught 4 passes, but fumbled. Marcus McMaryion was 16 of 27 passing, but did not throw a TD pass.
The bad loss interrupts any momentum that the team had gathered over its early conference-slate. We think Fresno State will win this week, but what if their game plan is cautious?
And what if BYU’s defense is better than advertised? They looked just fine against SJSU last weekend, probably because Mangum finally had a good game, and the ‘D wasn’t on the field for 40 minutes.
The Cougars will prevent touchdowns early, leading to a slim halftime lead for Fresno State that will turn into a 21-10 or 31-20 result. BYU is a fine pick ATS and there is also value in a bet on the under.