College Football Week 1 Odds, Picks & Prediction for Arizona vs. BYU: Wildcats Have Value as Underdog in Vegas (Saturday, Sept. 4)
TAMPA, FL – OCTOBER 12: Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (3) delivers a pass during the college football game between the Brigham Young Cougars and South Florida Bulls on October 12, 2019 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)
- The Arizona Wildcats and BYU Cougars meet at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
- Jedd Fisch begins his first season as head coach for Arizona, facing a BYU team replacing Zach Wilson at quarterback.
- Check out Thomas Schlarp's full betting guide with odds, picks, and predictions for the game.
Arizona vs. BYU Odds
Rebuild vs. Reload. The words are similar, but in football can connote different things.
For BYU, newly-extended Kalani Sitaki’s Cougars are the latter, trying to replace a once-in-a-generation quarterback at the program in the wake of a magical 11-1 season.
For Arizona, it’s a complete rebuild. New coach Jedd Fisch is tasked with cleaning up the scraps of the team left by Kevin Sumlin and Co., re-recruiting his entire team in addition to looking for talent elsewhere.
The programs couldn’t have had more dichotomous seasons in 2020, but things have regressed more to the mean this year as the programs prepare to meet at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Despite being an out-of-left field hire, Fisch has quickly won over the Tucson fan base as supporters can soon enough forget the 0-5 season and 70-7 walloping at the hands of intra-state rival Arizona State to end the year.
The former New England Patriots quarterbacks coach had precisely zero ties to the state of Arizona and had never been a head coach before at any level, except for a quick stint in 2017 as the interim coach of UCLA.
But despite the hire, Fisch did an excellent job of pitching himself to his team, returning an Offensive TARP of 75% and Defensive TARP of 83%.
The word of the day is “committee,” as in expect a lot of positions groups by committee.
The first committee comes at the quarterback position, where it was announced that first-year offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll (son of Pete Carroll) will use a quarterback rotation, at least for Week 1 when Washington State transfer Gunner Cruz will start, but fellow freshman Will Plummer will also play. Cruz is a dual-threat quarterback, while Plummer is a traditional pocket passer, which could present some difficulties for the offensive line when it comes to forming chemistry.
The biggest change on offense this year will be to a pro-style offense with Fisch calling plays and the QB under center, a departure from Rich Rodriguez’ spread attack that was installed in 2012 and run throughout the Sumlin tenure.
Arizona should have a strong rotation of running backs with Northwestern transfer Drake Anderson and Michael Wiley taking the bulk of the load. Both are above-average backs, but it’s imperative that Arizona improve its offensive line play from a season ago, which was a big reason the offense struggled to get going. Carroll worked as an offensive line and run game coach with the Seahawks prior to his hiring at Arizona.
The Wildcats return all six of their top pass-catchers from a year ago, which is important given that as an offensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars and UCLA, Fisch’s offenses never passed less than 56.3% of the time.
When you’re just starting at a program, you’re not going to get a better or more notable defensive coordinator hire than what Jedd Fisch did by bringing former Michigan DC Don Brown aboard.
And a defensive maestro is exactly what the Wildcats need, despite returning eight starters, as only once in the last six seasons has Arizona finished in the top 100 of total defense and scoring defense.
Arizona only sacked the quarterback twice last season, as reflected by its 127th-ranked Sack Rate, but the Wildcats get every starter back on the line, in addition to 14-game starter JB Brown who opted out last year.
The Wildcats also upgraded at the linebacker position, snagging starters from Vanderbilt and Bowling Green, as well as former Wisconsin player Malik Reed, to help add depth to an otherwise thin defense.
Despite only being ranked 103rd in Defensive Pass Success, largely due to a propensity to allow explosive plays, the Wildcats allowed the third fewest passing yards per game (202.3) in the conference and return three starters to the secondary.
It doesn’t get much better than 11-1 in Provo, Utah, but things are about to become much more difficult in 2021 for BYU.
The 2020 slate was composed exclusively of Group of Five programs, while this year’s includes games against Arizona, Utah, Arizona State, Baylor, Washington State, Virginia and USC, in addition to Boise State.
Zach Wilson is now in the Big Apple, and the defense returns just four starters. The question isn’t if BYU will fall off, it’s to what extent.
The Cougars return just 49% of Offensive TARP, and BYU welcomes a new offensive coordinator for the third time in Kalani Sitake’s six-year tenure, promoting Aaron Roderick following the departure of Jeff Grimes.
Roderick named Jaren Hall the heir to Zach Wilson for Week 1. Hall has been with the team since 2018 and started two games in 2019, going 31 of 46 for 420 yards and a touchdown.
Helping to ease the acclimation process for Hall will be running back Tyler Algeier who rushed for 1,130 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore last season is his first year starting on a team that ranked 14th in Rushing Success. He’ll be complemented by Lopini Katoa who is a better pass-catching back.
Elsewhere Hall will work to identify a new go-to receiver as the Cougars lose 70-catch wideout Dax Milne to the NFL, but Hall shouldn’t be too flustered in the pocket with BYU returning seven offensive lineman that started in 2020 and had a Sack Rate of ninth.
BYU’s defense is even greener than the offense, as the Cougars return just 32% of Defensive TARP. No team in the country returns less.
The defensive line will be almost entirely new, outside of Tyler Batty who led the Cougars with 4.5 sacks a year ago.
BYU’s linebacker trio is the one position group that held up outside of losing Isaiah Kaufusi, as the trio of likely starters Keenan Pili, Max Tooley and Payton Wilgar combined for 173 tackles last season.
The Cougars don’t have super high-end talent in the secondary, but they do have depth and plenty of guys that rotated in last year.
Arizona vs. BYU Matchup Analysis
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Arizona Offense vs. BYU Defense
BYU Offense vs. Arizona Defense
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Arizona vs. BYU Betting Pick
This game initially opened as an 11-point spread before being bet to where it stands now at 12.5, which is completely understandable given BYU’s record in 2020 and Arizona’s current 12-game losing streak. The Cougars are also likely to have a pretty noticeable advantage in fans at Allegiant Stadium, despite it being a neutral location.
That said, I think 12.5 points is too much to eat with BYU given the amount of roster turnover from last season. There are going to be so many new faces that there is bound to be a few hiccups in Week 1 that will minimize the talent advantage the Cougars have over Arizona.
Arizona will keep this close, and I even wouldn’t be shocked if they won outright, but we’ll play it safe in Week 1 until we see what type of progress the Wildcats made over the offseason and take the points.