What a difference a couple of years can make.
After defeating Fresno State, 52-10, two years ago at LaVell Edwards Stadium — in which freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum threw for 336 yards and went on to set several BYU records — the Cougars (2-7) come into Saturday’s game against Fresno State (5-3) as a double-digit underdog despite the Bulldogs losing at home last week to a UNLV (3-5) team they were supposed to beat by more than 21 points according to bookmakers.
Besides the win/loss records, a true indicator of just how bad things are right now for BYU is found in sports betting windows in Las Vegas:
Yes, the Bulldogs are two-touchdown favorites against BYU this year despite being 26-point underdogs just two years ago. That’s a 40-point swing! The line opened with Fresno State as an 11-point favorite before quickly jumping to as high as 16 before settling at 14. The fact that the line has gone up from the opening shows that there isn’t a lot of folks who have faith in the Cougars this year.
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, #BYUFootball, #GoDogs
BYU, who until this season was one of the most consistent programs across the country over the past four decades, have tumbled to lows not seen in more than a half-century.
It’s gotten so bad that ESPN put the Cougars into it’s “Bottom 10” rankings and according to its Football Power Index, gives the Cougars just an 18% chance of beating Fresno State and a 45% chance of beating UNLV.
Despite picking up its first FBS win of the season against San Jose State last week at home, as fans hilariously reacted to finally getting a Cougar victory, disappointment and frustration still abound as fans voice their displeasure saying:
- “The fact that we are hoping for a win over Fresno State shows how bad this year is.“
- “It’s sad that if we beat Fresno State, it will be our biggest win of the season.“
The following week, the Cougars will take on UNLV team that lost its season-opening game to Howard (FCS), despite being a 45-point favorite at home. Yet, despite that, and having just three wins on the year, the Rebels are currently favored over BYU according to most bookmakers. However, a win against Fresno State on the road should change that.
The good news for Cougar fans is that the team still has a shot at making a bowl game if they can win out. However, another loss will end BYU’s streak of making 12 consecutive bowl games.
Yes, BYU has been hit hard by injuries this season — with 36 different players missing significant time including 13 starters — but there is a ray of hope as a number of players came back last week and several more are expected/ready to play, including backup quarterback Beau Hoge who many believe is the best QB on the team. Hoge, has been cleared to play Saturday and noted this week that he was fully healthy and ready to go.
With bowl aspirations hanging in the balance, BYU players and coaches will be playing to extend the season and their jobs. And if the Cougars can win out, including a bowl victory, the Cougars will end the season at 7-7, which would feel like a big victory for Cougar Nation after starting the year at 1-7.