Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#359 South Florida (USF) vs.
#360 BYU
Saturday, September 25, 2021 at 10:15pm EDT
Written by Nathaniel Reeves

The No. 15 BYU Cougars will hope to continue their impressive start to the season when they host the South Florida Bulls on Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium. South Florida got in the win column with a 38-17 victory over FCS Florida A&M last weekend as a 22.5-point home favorite and is now 1-2 overall this season. BYU is off to a 3-0 start and picked up a nice victory on Saturday night with a 27-17 triumph over the Arizona State Sun Devils as a three-point home underdog.

These teams met for the first time just two seasons ago, with South Florida winning 27-23 in Tampa Bay.

South Florida snaps 10-game losing streak

Things not have gone well for South Florida since head coach Jeff Scott took over prior to the 2020 season, but the Bulls at least managed to avoid an FCS over FBS upset by handling Florida A&M last week, breaking a 10-game skid. Jaren Mangham scored on two short touchdown runs in the first half with Xavier Weaver adding a nine-yard touchdown catch to give the Bulls a 24-3 halftime lead, and Florida A&M could only get as close as 31-17 as Mangham ran in another score from nine yards out.

Quarterback Timmy McClain completed 12 of his 23 pass attempts for 163 yards and a touchdown while adding 14 carries for 51 yards. Brian Battie had a huge game with 10 carries for 110 yards, while Weaver had a career best five catches for 77 yards and a score. South Florida finished with a 404-380 advantage in total yards and stopped Florida A&M three different times on fourth down.

“It’s been a long year and we’ve been through a lot and the natural thing for a lot of teams in that situation is to split up and divide, but our guys have not done that,” Scott said to the Tampa Bay Times. “This team has stuck together and showed a lot of grit. I’m very proud of that.”

South Florida is off to a 1-2 start against the spread, as it managed to keep within three touchdowns against the No. 11 Florida Gators as a 29-point home underdog. Overs are 2-1 for the Bulls, with each of their last two games going over the betting total.

Even with the win on Saturday, the Bulls have rough numbers on both sides of the ball with an average of 19.3 points and 324 yards per game, as they got blanked in the opener by the NC State Wolfpack. Opponents are racking up 34.7 points and 523.7 points per game against South Florida, both bottom 20 marks in college football.

McClain has gotten the most time at quarterback, completing 23 of 46 pass attempts for 372 yards, one touchdown and one interception while adding 26 carries for 78 yards. Weaver is emerging as South Florida's top receiver with nine catches for 218 yards and a score, while Mangham has racked up five touchdowns on just 20 carries. Andrew Mims is the leader of the South Florida with 23 tackles.

South Florida unfortunatley ran into some injury problems in the Florida A&M game with wide receivers Bryce Miller and Latrell Williams plus defensive end Darrien Grant leaving early, making them all questionable. Starting safety Mekhi LaPointe is regarded as 50/50 to play on Saturday through a hip injury, while Christian Williams (sprained ankle) and Will Jones (knee) will definitely be missing from the secondary. Defensive end Jamari Stewart, a transfer from Mississippi State, isn't ready to return from a leg injury suffered in the preseason.

BYU takes down another Pac-12 foe in impressive fashion

All three BYU wins this season have come against Pac-12 South opponents, and last Saturday was the most impressive effort yet from the Cougars as they took down a ranked Arizona State team. Tyler Allgeier opened the scoring with a touchdown run just 37 seconds in before Jaren Hall found both Gunner Romney and Isaac Rex on scoring passes before the end of the first half, and that proved to be enough for the defense to hold on even though the Cougars didn't score again until under two minutes were left in the game.

Hall finished 15/27 passing for 214 yards with the two touchdowns and two interceptions. Romney had a big game, reeling in six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. Arizona State outgained BYU 426-361, only to be undone by turning the ball over four times, including once on a strip by Allgeier as he chased down an Arizona State defender following an interception.

“Tyler just went back to linebacker mode and saved the game for us,” Rex said to the Associated Press. “That play was, by far, the biggest play of the game for us.”

BYU is 2-1 against the spread early on, as it managed to beat both Arizona State and the Utah Utes outright as an underdog, with both opponents in the top 25 at the time. All three games so far for BYU have gone under the betting total after last Saturday's game fell a touchdown short of clearing 50.5 points.

The Cougars have done just enough to get by offensively with an average of 25.7 points and 365.7 yards per game so far this season. BYU's defense has been the driving force behind the perfect start, with opponents only managing 16.7 points and 397.3 points per game.

Hall has provided an effective replacement for No. 2 overall draft pick Zach Wilson under center, completing 51 of 85 pass attempts for 561 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. Allgeier has been the bell cow with 65 carries for 265 yards and two scores, while Neil Pau'u is BYU's top wideout with 14 catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns. Payton Wilgar is the defensive leader with 19 tackles including four for a loss, 1.5 sacks and three pass breakups.

BYU got some tough news last week as linebacker and team capitan Keenan Pili suffered a torn ACL after piling up a team-high 31 tackles including 3.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks in the early going this season. Defensive lineman Atunaisa Mahe and cornerback Isaiah Herron also left last weekend with injuries, with no update on either. Defensive back Keenan Ellis has not appeared this year due to a neck injury.

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Full-Game Side Bet

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Rating:

South Florida is not a good football team, but this BYU offense is not built to cover such a huge spread no matter who the opponent in. Expect the Cougars to control the action behind their run game and defense while not generating enough explosive plays to pull away by more than three touchdowns.

A BYU offense that lost a ton over the offseason is still figuring things out through the air, as Hall is averaging only 6.6 yards per attempt this season with the Cougars running the ball on 56.5% of their snaps. Things are going to be a little worse on the other side too, as losing arguably the best player on the team in Pili is going to limit how many disruptive plays BYU can create in the opponent backfield.

While the Cougars have impressed since, they only beat a terrible Arizona team that is even worse than South Florida at this point by a 24-16 scoreline while actually getting outgained in that game. South Florida has already covered once as a huge underdog against a top 15 team in Florida, and the confidence boost from finally getting a win last weekend will help the Bulls stick around just long enough.

Prediction: South Florida +23

Full-Game Total Pick

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Rating:

While the Cougars running game generates a lot of volume, it hasn't been too efficient in the early going and the offense is averaging just 5.3 yards per play despite the perfect start. South Florida is in a much worse place as an offense with an awful 4.7 yards per play, and the fact the Bulls got shut out by NC State while managing just 271 yards of total offense doesn't bode well against an even better defense this week.

The BYU defense still has a good amount of talent even with its leader out thanks to its ability to create turnovers and other negative plays, and the porous South Florida offensive line will be in trouble here. Both teams also run a below-average tempo with fewer than 70 plays per game, and BYU will slow even further down with the run-heavy attack when it gets a big lead in the second half.

Prediction: Under 54
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Written By Nathaniel Reeves , "Nathaniel Reeves"

Nathaniel Reeves is an avid sports fan with degrees in journalism from the University of Washington and statistics from Western Washington University. He's always had a passion for applying statistical analysis to sports betting and has successfully handicapped college football, college basketball, and Esports for years. Nathaniel has endured being a lifelong fan of the Seattle Mariners, along with the Seattle Seahawks, UW Huskies and soon to be Seattle Kraken. He has been a very successful sports bettor the last several years and we are thrilled that Nate has chosen to bring his talents to us here at Winners & Whiners. You would be very wise to follow him daily.