BYU Football: Fresno State Favored Big Over BYU; Cougars Face Must-Win Game To Keep Bowl Hopes Alive


Oddsmakers have Fresno State as a double-digit favorite over BYU heading into Saturday’s showdown at Bulldog Stadium. The Bulldogs opened as 11-point favorites, and the line quickly jumped to as high as 16. As of Wednesday morning, Fresno State currently sits as a 14-point favorite at home.

BYU is coming off a 41-20 home win over San Jose State to end a seven-game losing streak. Junior running back Brayden El-Bakri also delivered the hardest hit of the college football season on San Jose State’s Rahshead Johnson, and recovered the fumble too.

Meanwhile, Fresno State, which picked up a big win on the road over San Diego State two weeks ago to win its fourth consecutive game, saw it all come crashing down in a 26-16 home loss to lowly UNLV, despite being 21-point favorites.

Saturday’s game has big implications for BYU. Since 2005, the football program has made 12 consecutive bowl games, but a loss on Saturday would put an end to that streak.

Viewing Information

Date: Saturday, Nov. 4 | Time: 8:45 p.m. MT
Location: Bulldog Stadium (41,031) — Fresno, California
TV: ESPN2 | Live stream: WatchESPN
Play-by-Play: Roy Philpott, Tom Ramsey
Social Media: #BYUvsFresno, #BYUvsFSU

Betting Line

The Spread: Fresno (-14)
Money Line:
Fresno (-600), BYU +(450)
Over/Under: 50

BYU Will Cover The Spread

Whether BYU or Fresno State win on Saturday doesn’t matter when it comes to picking the spread. Instead of picking who wins and who loses, picking the spread (point difference) involves betting on if the outcome of the game will be above or below the spread. As of right now, if BYU keeps the game within two touchdowns, the Cougars will have covers and if the Bulldogs win by more than two touchdowns, they will have covered the spread. 

Some of the reasons for the wide gap is based on team records, game location, as well as how teams have fared against the spread this year. This season, BYU is currently just 1-7 against the spread while Fresno State is 5-2 and because of that, bettors are going all in for the Bulldogs. However, oddsmakers are giving the Bulldogs too much credit with its soft schedule as they go up against a Cougar squad that knows it must run the table in order to hopefully earn a bowl invitation.

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Because BYU is an Independent, the Cougars’ schedule is very front loaded as evident by its three-game stretch this year that consisted of LSU, Utah and Wisconsin and a two-game stretch of Boise State and Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Fresno State — which replaced its starting quarterback four games into the season — has looked great under junior quarterback Marcus McMaryion. However, most people will look good when you get to play the likes of Nevada (1-7), San Jose State (1-8) and New Mexico (3-5) all in a row.

With Fresno State’s soft schedule and with BYU QB Tanner Mangum and the Cougar offense finally showing some life, Saturday’s game should be a lot closer than most expect. And with backup Beau Hoge ready to go after sitting out the past month due to injury, the Cougars can mix it up and won’t have to stick with Mangum the entire game if he starts struggling.

Finally, with BYU’s slow-paced offense — which is designed that way to keep its defense off the field for as long as possible — opponents don’t have as many possessions and opportunities to score as they do against faster-paced opponents. Adding it all up, I believe the Cougars will have no problem covering the spread.

Prediction: BYU 24, Fresno State 20

So far this season, both teams have had one common opponent in San Jose State. BYU picked up a 41-20 victory last week, while Fresno State came away with a 27-10 victory three weeks ago. The Cougars had 598 yards of total offense compared to the Bulldogs who managed just 348 yards against the Spartans. BYU did give up 338 yards compared to Fresno State’s 205 yards, however a lot of those yards and scores came during garbage time late in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Fresno State played its starters the whole game after taking just a 21-7 lead into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs also just lost to a UNLV team that fell to Howard (FCS), despite being favored by 45-points at home.

Yes, BYU has had 36 different players miss significant time due to injury this season with with 13 being starters, however, a number of players came back last week and several more are expected to play this week.

I see a close game this Saturday between both teams but believe the Cougars will do just enough to get the victory. With bowl aspirations hanging in the balance, BYU players and coaches will be playing to extend their season and their jobs.

What’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?

NoteThe Cougars and the Bulldogs are 5-5 in the all-time series with BYU defeating Fresno State, 52-10, at home in 2015 in what was the last game between both sides.

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