No. 25 BYU (0-0) opens the season at South Florida (0-0) on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium — home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Both teams are meeting for just the third time in the series and have split both games so far. USF got the first win in the series (27-23) when the two teams played in 2019 — in what was Jaren Hall’s first career start. BYU got revenge last year (35-27) at LaVell Edwards Stadium, however, it was Baylor Romney that lead the Cougars to victory as Hall with out with an injury. Romney went on to throw for 305 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
Date: Saturday, September 3
Time: 2 p.m. MT
Announcers: Ted Emrich (play-by-play), Barrett Brooks (analyst), Ashley Strohlein (sideline reporter)
Location: Raymond James Stadium (65,618) — Tampa, Florida
The Spread: BYU -11.5
Money Line: BYU -455, USF +325
When betting lines first opened, BYU was a 12.5 point favorite. That went down to 10.5 during the week before climbing back up to 11.5. The over/under has stayed relatively the same and currently stands at 58.5. In regards to the money line, oddsmakers are still favoring BYU at -417. The money line simply involves picking the winning team. With BYU at -417, those picking the Cougars would have to risk $417 to win $100. However, for those picking USF, one would win $321 for his/her $100 wager.
SP+, a predictive analytics tool created by ESPN’s Bill Connelly, has BYU beating USF 37-20. With a 84% chance of beating USF, this is a lot higher than what ESPN’s Football Power Index is giving the Cougars. As of right now, the FPI gives BYU a 64.8% chance to beat the Bulls. For a in-depth look at ESPN’s FPI predictions for BYU this year, and how accurate/bad it’s been over the years, click here.
With 18 returning starters, BYU is loaded both on offense and defense — assuming everyone that was injured last year is back to their normal self. The team also brought in some highly skilled transfers, highlighted by Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia along with Gabe Jeudy-Lally, Christopher Brooks and Houston Heimuli.
While it’s always tough to know what to expect in season openers — especially with the transfer portal these days combined with so many players coming off injuries for the Cougars — the team, on paper, should have enough talent to make a run at a NY6 spot.
“We don’t know much about what they do on offense or defense with the new coordinators that they have,” said BYU Head coach Kalani Sitake. “So we will have to be ready for everything, and we’re preparing that way.
Meanwhile, USF is coming off a 2-10 season, is on a five-game losing streak and finished at the bottom of a bunch of defensive categories last year. With a number of skill players for the Cougars, the team should have no problem scoring.
At the same time, the Bulls also return 18 starters and have a lot of experience coming back. It also helps that the team was able to get former Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon through the transfer portal. Bohanon, started 12 games last season while leading the Bears to the Big 12 championship and Sugar Bowl victory. He accounted for over 2,500 yards total offense, throwing for 18 TDs and rushing for nine. The Bulls also return their top four rushers from last year.
Cougar fans are very aware of Bohanon as the dual-threat quarterback led Baylor to a 38-24 win over BYU last year. In that game, the Cougars allowed more than 300 yards of rushing and with its entire rushing attack back, expect USF to go right at the Cougars.
The offensive line is one of USF’s better strengths, so if they can control the line of scrimmage and keep BYU’s explosive offense off the field, they’ll have a chance to knock off the Cougars again at home.
Prediction: BYU 34, USF 23
Season openers have been very kind to BYU over the years as the team has won 13 of its last 15 season openers. Under Kalani Sitake, the Cougars are 5-1, with the lone loss coming against Utah in 2019.
At the same time, most of those wins haven’t been by wide margins, with the only exception being the 55-3 beaten the Cougars put on Navy in 2020.
While I don’t expect BYU to blowout USF — that’s how oddsmaker feel as well with BYU as 11.5 point favorites — if the Cougars want to make a push for their first-ever NY6 berth, they’ll need to rack up the style points and make a statement.
The Bulls haven’t beaten a ranked opponent since 2016 and that streak will continue on Saturday. However, with rain in the forecast, which BYU doesn’t seem to do well in — see Boise State game last year — I think USF will keep it closer than most expect. Another reason why I think the game will be close is that BYU has always struggled in games on the east coast, combined with players looking ahead to playing No. 10 Baylor next week in the home opener. For these reasons, I’m not sure BYU covers, but the Cougars will get the win.
LAVELL’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY — The 2022 season marks the 50th anniversary of Hall of Fame coach LaVell Edwards being named the head coach at BYU. In the 47 seasons prior to Edwards, BYU had won 173 games, ranking 113th nationally. Since Edwards’ takeover in 1972, BYU has won 430 games, tied for No. 8 nationally. BYU more than doubled its average win total per season from under 4 to 8.6. Edwards won multiple national coach of the year awards and led BYU to the 1984 national championship and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The program will honor him in various ways this season to highlight his legacy.
INDEPENDENCE FAREWELL TOUR — The 2022 season marks the final campaign as an independent program before joining the Big 12 in 2023. Over the past 11 seasons as an independent, BYU has gone 91-51 (.641), and has racked up more wins during this time frame than Florida, USC, Baylor, Iowa, Washington, Auburn, Texas and many other blue blood programs.
BYU has faced 70+ different opponents from 36 different states, representing every FBS conference as well as Notre Dame. BYU has played 50 games against Power 5 opponents in that span (going 23-27) and has at least one win against every Power 5 conference.