BYU will try to bounce back from a sound thumping by Utah in their ‘Holy War’ rivalry game last week but don’t exactly have an ‘easy out’ for this Friday night game in Provo as underrated Central Florida comes to town. UCF is coming off a loss in their own in state rivalry game against Florida International which dropped the Knights to 2-1 on the season. Short week for both teams as they convene in Provo, Utah for this contest.

UCF AT BYU SEPTEMBER 23, 2011 5:00 PM PACIFIC

This BYU team—and quarterback Jake Heaps in particular—generated a lot of excitement last season with a strong stretch run. The Cougars have been a notoriously slow starting team dating back to the time when giants like Lavell Edwards, Gifford Nielsen and Marc Wilson trod the field in Provo and last year was no exception. BYU opened 1-4 SU/ATS before going 6-2 SU/7-1 ATS to close out the year. The offense created a lot of excitement producing 42.4 PPG and 469 yards per game in their last five contests of the year.

The Cougars have once again stumbled out of the gate in 2011 with the offense sputtering dramatically averaging only 13.3 PPG in three contests. They made Ole Miss look much better than they really were defensively, and the fact that Vanderbilt scored 30 points against a Rebels’ defense that BYU could only dent for 14 doesn’t bode well for the Cougars here. The reality is that much of BYU’s late season surge in 2010 was a function of scheduling with all of the regular season wins coming against the lower half of the Mountain West Conference table. The irony is that the 2011 schedule sets up in a similar fashion with a 6-1 record in the final seven games a very realistic proposition.

This is actually a tough ‘sandwich’ spot for BYU coming off the embarrassing loss to in-state rivals Utah. They’ll host Utah State next week and the Aggies have a legit chance of pulling off the outright upset (they’ve covered the last three in the series). UCF will have a bye week before a C-USA game against Marshall on October 8.

On balance, the concept of playing against ‘lowlanders’ in the altitude of BYU’s Provo, Utah home field is attractive but in reality the results haven’t validated that strategy. BYU is 9-4 SU but only 5-8 ATS in their last 13 home games. At one point, they were a fearsome favorite—during the Lavell Edwards era they were infamous for rolling up the score on hapless and overmatched opponents. The current vintage Cougars are just 8-10 ATS as a chalk during the past two years. And as noted above, the Cougars never start the season in top form—BYU is 5-6 SU/4-7 ATS in their September games since 2009.

In their eighth year under George O’Leary, UCF may be one of the most ‘under the radar’ pointspread machines in college football. They’ve become known for developing solid quarterbacks (sophomore Jeffrey Godfrey is the latest) but they’ve also become a defensive powerhouse leading the C-USA in total defense each of the last three years. Their defense has looked as good as ever this season allowing 20 points total in their first three games—including a 3 point performance by Boston College.

The Knights’ ATS record in almost any situational breakdown is excellent: 21-7 ATS overall since 2009, 7-2 ATS in September, 6-2 ATS as an underdog and 10-2 ATS on the road. Of particular salience could be their impressive showing in short week turnaround spots—playing with 6 or fewer days rest UCF is 17-3 ATS compared to BYU’s 7-13 ATS. Nothing will come easily for the Cougars against the underrated visitor—look for UCF to win outright in a low scoring game. We’ll play the Knights and the Under (UCF 0-8 to the Under in September since 2009)

Bet UCF +3 over BYU
Bet UCF/BYU 43

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