Getting off the mat is going to be tough for the BYU Cougars. The Cougars lost to in-state rival Utah State on Friday night by a 35-20 score, but the bigger story was the injury to Taysom Hill. Once looked at as a Heisman Trophy candidate, Hill is out for the season and well into next offseason after suffering a fractured leg and several ligament injuries. Hill hobbled off the field under mostly his own power, but it was a tough scene for the Cougars, who never recovered. On the other side, the UCF Knights escaped Houston with their first conference win of the season. It sets up what should be a defensive struggle on Thursday night in Orlando.
BYU vs. UCF College Football Preview
Date/Time: Thursday October 9, 7:30 p.m. ET
College Football Betting Odds from WagerWeb
College Football Betting Favorite: UCF -3.5
Everything that BYU did this season prior to the Taysom Hill injury might as well be thrown out. Nevertheless, the Cougars are 2-3 ATS on the season and both ATS wins have come on the road. The Cougars have lost three straight games ATS. Bronco Mendenhall is 12-7-1 ATS as a road underdog in his tenure at BYU. George O’Leary’s UCF team is 2-2 SU/ATS with both wins coming in their last two games. O’Leary is 25-16-1 ATS with UCF as a home favorite.
Christian Stewart looked very inconsistent against Utah State once Taysom Hill went out. In fairness, the Cougars just saw their team leader and best player carted off the field and didn’t receive good news at halftime. A week of practice with Stewart at the helm could certainly help the BYU offense. BYU managed 260 yards for a 5.65 yards per play average after the second half, but an interception on a long drive to open the half clearly changed the flow of the game and hurt Stewart’s confidence. It will be up to the BYU defense to step up in Hill’s absence. The Cougars started the season by allowing only 17 points to UConn and Texas. In the three games since, the Cougars have allowed 93 points, including 35 points to a Utah State team that scored 14 points in an overtime loss to Arkansas State in their previous game.
A game-saving play by Brandon Alexander pushed the Knights to .500 on the season. Alexander forced a fumble at the one-yard-line in the final minute against Houston and the ball harmlessly went out of the side of the end zone for a touchback. The Knights won despite accumulating just 228 yards. Justin Holman was 6-of-18 for 101 yards, but he did throw two touchdown passes out of those six completions. UCF has managed just 281 yards of offense on average this season and it’s clear that the losses of Storm Johnson and Blake Bortles have had an impact. Despite very little help from the offense, the defense has played very well. The Knights are giving up only 20.8 points per game and that includes two games against power five conference opponents Penn State and Missouri. However, the Knights have given up just 19 points to Bethune-Cookman and Houston to help their average.
Free Pick: UCF -3.5
The Golden Knights will play a low-scoring game with BYU here and they should be able to pick up a score on defense or special teams to make a difference. This is a game that will feature a lot of running plays and a lot of bad offense, so look for a major game-changer like a pick-six to have an impact. The Knights have a lot of athleticism on defense, so expect that type of play to come from them.
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