SMU vs BYU Odds & Picks: The New Mexico Bowl Spread Bet to Make

SMU vs BYU Odds & Picks: The New Mexico Bowl Spread Bet to Make article feature image

Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images and Tom Hauck/Getty Images. Pictured from left: Ben Redding (81) of the SMU Mustangs and Christopher Brooks (2) of the BYU Cougars.

SMU vs BYU Odds

Saturday, Dec. 17
7:30 p.m. ET
SMU Odds
-114o / -106u
BYU Odds
-114o / -106u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

It's been 25 years since SMU and BYU last played one another, but go back even earlier to 1980 for one of the greatest comebacks in college football history when these programs met in the Holiday Bowl.

The Pony Express Mustangs were up 45-25 with under four minutes remaining before Jim McMahon and the Cougars scored 21 unanswered points. The future Chicago Bears quarterback connected on a Doug Flutie-like Hail Mary from midfield as time expired to tie the game before a game-winning extra point.

The 1980 Holiday Bowl. One of the craziest comebacks in college football HISTORY.

SMU led BYU 45-25 with 3:57 left in the game.

Then, Jim McMahon and @BYUfootball did THIS:

— Cover 3 Podcast (@Cover3Podcast) August 3, 2020

With two of the worst defenses playing in a bowl, this game could prove to be just as high-scoring as the legendary Holiday Bowl.

But with BYU's Jaren Hall unlikely to play and SMU's Rashee Rice choosing to opt out so he can prepare for the NFL Draft, these normally explosive offenses could be a shell of their regular-season selves.

Will the porous defenses allow both teams to light up the scoreboard, or will a missing offensive star prove too much for one side to overcome?

Southern Methodist Mustangs

Rhett Lashlee's Mustangs finished the year 7-5 with one-score losses to Maryland and College Football Playoff-bound TCU.

Led by quarterback Tanner Mordecai, SMU averaged 38.4 points per game, the 13th-best mark in the country.

Mordecai is one of 10 quarterbacks averaging at least 300 yards passing per game and will face a BYU defense that ranks 114th in Pass Success and 104th in pass blocking. He'll be without the nation's leader in yards receiving per game (112.9), however, as Rice has elected to opt out and prepare for the NFL Draft.

Rice has over 2.5 times the amount of receiving yards (1,355) as the next closest receiver, which will be tough to make up in what's been described by Lashlee as a "pretty hectic" bowl preparation as he and his staff try to manage the transfer portal and recruiting.

Dylan Goffney, the team's third-leading receiver, will also miss the game after sustaining an injury in the regular-season finale.

While BYU's defense has been bad, SMU's has been even worse. The Mustangs are 115th or worse in pass rush, Havoc, Finishing Drives and scoring defense.

They allowed over 40 points in four games this season and notably allowed 710 yards in regulation to Houston earlier this year.

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BYU Cougars

The New Mexico Bowl serves as BYU's final game as an FBS Independent before joining the Big 12 next year. However, the Cougars (7-5) will likely have to play this game without some big pieces on their roster.

Quarterback Hall, who injured his ankle in the regular-season finale, has been limited in practice, with offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick on Tuesday saying Hall's chances of playing "aren't as good as [Roderick] hoped."

Hall is no stranger to playing after having not practiced, as he did so against Notre Dame earlier this season. But the ankle injury appears more significant and likely to sideline the star.

With backup quarterback Jacob Conover off to Arizona State via the transfer portal, BYU will be forced to turn to its third-string quarterback Cade Fennegan, a Boise State transfer who hasn't thrown a pass since 2020.

In order to avoid a track meet with SMU, the Cougars will likely turn to the ground game more and try to keep the ball out of Mordecai's hands.

While BYU ran it on only 51% of plays, the Cougars rank 27th in Line Yards, and running back Christopher Brooks ranks 11th in the country in yards per carry (6.57) among players with at least as many carries as him.

The ground game will have to chew as much clock as possible, as an already-lousy BYU defense will be even more vulnerable on Saturday. Seven-year BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki stepped down following the final game of the regular season, leaving the defensive staff down a man to prepare for one of the more dangerous offenses in the country.

The Cougars rank 101st in scoring defense (30.0 points per game) and 93rd in total defense (409.7 yards per game). They're also 130th in sacks even after getting three against Stanford to end the season.

Making matters worse, the Cougars will be without two of their starting linebackers, both of whom entered the transfer portal.

SMU vs BYU Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how SMU and BYU match up statistically:

SMU Offense vs. BYU Defense
Rush Success52113
Line Yards55126
Pass Success34114
Pass Blocking**4104
Finishing Drives7130
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

BYU Offense vs. SMU Defense
Rush Success53107
Line Yards2776
Pass Success3057
Pass Blocking**1119
Finishing Drives36115
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling11650
PFF Coverage11079
SP+ Special Teams3393
Seconds per Play21.5 (6)26.9 (77)
Rush Rate48.1% (102)51.0% (87)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

SMU vs BYU Betting Pick

If these teams met with Hall and Rice expected to play, we'd be expecting a much higher-scoring game. With news of Hall's status earlier this week, the total dropped a massive 10 points to 64.5.

But with Rice definitely gone and Hall doubtful, these offenses won't be as fun to watch, even going against soft defenses. And there's not much to work with in regard to expectations surrounding Fennegan.

While Rice will be playing in the NFL next year, the absence of Hall is more impactful. SMU is bad against the run, but if there's not much of a passing threat for the Mustangs to defend, they can afford to sell out at the line of scrimmage.

SMU still has one of the nation's leading passers in what will be Mordecai's last chance as a Mustang to make an impression on NFL scouts. Personnel and coaching-staff issues for the BYU defense will prove problematic for the Cougars even without Rice on the field for SMU.

It may not be an encore of the 1980 Holiday Bowl, but I trust SMU's veteran quarterback to play well enough and to score enough points to force BYU to try and throw.

The Cougars won't be able to keep pace, as SMU covers the spread.

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