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The BYU Cougars will travel to Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday afternoon for a matchup against the UMass Minutemen in a battle of FBS independent teams. The Cougars got off to a fast start, winning three of their first four games of the season, but back-to-back losses to Washington and Utah State prompted the Cougars to bench their senior starting quarterback in favor of a true freshman. While the move might be in the best interest of the future of the program, it hasn’t paid immediate dividends, as BYU enters riding a two-game losing streak following back-to-back losses against Northern Illinois and Boise State.
Tanner Magnum taking benching gracefully
The Cougars lost their second straight game and fourth in five contests last week in a close 21-16 defeat on the road against the Boise State Broncos. BYU hung around all game thanks to a solid defensive performance, limiting the Broncos to just 327 total yards and forcing two turnovers on the night, but it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset win. Quarterback Zach Wilson finished 18 of 27 passing for 252 yards, while adding 36 rush yards and a score on the ground to keep BYU competitive, however, the Cougars were undone by three lost fumbles, which eventually sealed their fate. Senior running back Matt Hadley led the team in rushing with a paltry 39 yards on the day, while Talon Shumway was tops on the team in receiving with three catches for 62 yards. All in all, it was another lackluster performance for a BYU offense that mustered just six points in a loss to Northern Illinois last week.
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The Cougars made a quarterback change in recent weeks and while things haven’t always looked pretty on offense, senior quarterback Tanner Magnum has taken the change in stride. Wilson, who started under center for the past three games, is a true freshman that can make plays with his arm and his legs, as evidenced by his two rushing touchdowns in the past three contests. Wilson has thrown for three touchdowns and rushed for two more in his three starts this year.3
BYU comes into the week with a 4-5 overall record and similar stats on both sides of the football. The Cougars are scoring 22.0 points per game, while allowing 22.1 points per game on the defensive side of the ball. They are piling up 333.2 yards of total offense per game, while allowing 334.1 yards per game on defense through nine games this season.
UMass survives triple-overtime game versus Liberty
The Minutemen are fresh off of their second straight win last week, after taking down Liberty 62-59 in a triple-overtime thriller at home. Cooper Garcia kicked a field goal that made the difference in an offensive shootout where both teams had a running back top 100 yards on the ground and a receiver eclipse at least 200 yards. Quarterback Ross Comis completed 29 of his 44 pass attempts on the day for a whopping 540 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Marquis Young rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-tying score with 20 seconds left to send the teams into overtime. Meanwhile, wide receiver Andy Isabella also had two touchdowns to go along with his school-record 303 receiving yards on the day to help the Minutemen cap off a 14-point fourth quarter comeback.
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UMass comes into the week with a 4-6 overall record, while allowing 41.4 points per game on defense. Opposing teams have gashed the Minutemen on the ground this year, averaging 265 rush yards and 472.8 yards of total offense per game against the UMass defense. On offense, UMass has compiled 68 percent of their total offense through the air, where they average 310.7 of their 457.6 yards of total offense. They are scoring 35.1 points per game this year after last week’s 62-point outburst.
- Minutemen are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following an ATS win.
- Minutemen are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game.
- Cougars are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
- Cougars are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 road games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
After two tough losses in back-to-back weeks against Northern Illinois and Boise State, the Cougars will have their work cut out for them if they want to get back in the win column here. The key for BYU? Run the football consistently. UMass is allowing a healthy 265 rush yards per game and opposing teams are averaging 41.4 points per game against the Minutemen defense so far this year. Squally Canada and Lopini Katoa have combined for nine rushing scored this season and the BYU defense has shown up in recent weeks, which has me leaning towards the Cougars covering the spread on the road in this spot on Saturday afternoon.
Prediction: Pick: BYU Cougars -14
Full-Game Total Pick
BYU’s defense has allowed just 22.1 points per game this season and only 28 points combined over their last two games. UMass does most of its damage through the air on offense, while the Cougars allow just 195.4 passing yards per game, so something has to give in this matchup. The Cougars have gone over the projected total in 13 of their last 16 games against a team with a losing home record. Meanwhile, the Minutemen have gone over the total in eight of their last nine home games. Look for those trends to continue and take the over in this matchup of FBS independent teams on Saturday afternoon.
Prediction: Over 59,5
Half-Time Side Pick
UMass has struggled to stop the run and with BYU turning to a freshman quarterback in recent weeks, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them lean on the ground game on Saturday. The Cougars’ defense has played well in recent weeks, but untimely turnovers have cost them a chance to win against Northern Illinois and Boise State. This Minutemen defense isn’t adept at getting takeaways, so I’m leaning towards the Cougars covering the number in the first half of this game on Saturday.
Prediction: BYU -7.5
Half-Time Total Bet
Wilson seems to be getting more and more uncomfortable under center and should continue to improve with additional playing time. UMass has allowed 58 points or more in three of their last five games and they are allowing 41.4 points per game so far this year. While BYU hasn’t exactly put up points with Wilson under center this year, they have shown some added potential on offense. Look for this game to go over the projected first half total on Saturday afternoon.
Prediction: Over 30