BYU vs. No. 21 Utah Prediction: Can Cougars Keep It Close Against Their Currently Ranked In-State Rivals?

College football handicapper Ian Cameron breaks down this weekend's BYU vs No. 21 Utah prediction and gives us his picks for this matchup.
Ian Cameron
Wed, September 8, 8:52 AM EDT

BYU vs. No. 21 Utah Prediction: Can Cougars Keep It Close Against Their Currently Ranked In-State Rivals?

Brigham Young University Cougars vs. Utah Utes

When: Saturday, September 11

Game Time: 10:15 PM ET

Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium

TV Network: ESPN

BYU vs Utah Spread: BYU -7

BYU vs. Utah Total: 49

Complete BYU vs Utah Odds

BYU vs. Utah Prediction

The latest edition of The Holy War takes place Saturday night between two great in-state rivals as the Utah Utes face the BYU Cougars. Utah started their season with a 40-17 win against Weber State. The Utes are perennially strong in the trenches, and that is the case once again in 2021 as Utah is loaded along both the offensive line and defensive line, fully capable of controlling the game in the trenches. Utah averaged 6 yards per carry and Baylor transfer. Quarterback Charlie Brewer was solid in his debut as the Utes starting Quarterback, notching an efficient 19-for-27 70% completion rate with 233 yards through the air and a couple of touchdown passes. However, he did throw an interception as well.

The defense was very stout against the run, which we have come to expect from a Utah squad during the Kyle Whittingham era. The Utes held the Wildcats to just 1.9 yards per carry in the win. As they take on BYU, things will get more challenging for Utah, but how much tougher will this game be? I ask that question because I was not one bit impressed by much of anything that I saw from the BYU Cougars in a very narrow escape against a rebuilding Arizona Wildcats squad.

BYU hung on for a 24-16 win against Arizona in which they failed to cover as double-digit favorites. BYU entered the season with the smallest amount of returning production from last year’s team. However, I figured they had the experience and manpower in the trenches to control the game against a team starting over from scratch. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and the stats bear that out. BYU was outgained by 58 total yards in the game against Arizona despite getting the victory, and the Cougars held only a very slim +0.7 yards per play edge over the Wildcats.

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We knew BYU would be in transition at Quarterback, going from Zach Wilson to whoever was going to start under center for them this season. Jaren Hall struggled at times throwing the football for BYU last week. His completion rate was solid at 64%, but he only threw for 198 passing yards. The ground attack was stable, allowing BYU to move the football enough to win the game last week as they averaged 4.7 yards per rush. The Cougars defense was terrific against the run, but their secondary has plenty of holes in it. Those holes were exploited by Arizona Quarterback Gunner Cruz in his very first start for the Wildcats as he completed 34-for-45 passes for a 76% completion rate and was able to move the football through the air throughout the game against the BYU pass defense.

Utah now has a Quarterback with tons of experience and ability in Charlie Brewer, so even if the Utes are stymied on the ground, the passing game should be able to do damage against a Cougars defense that showed plenty of vulnerability in terms of defending the pass last week. I also expect Utah’s run defense to shut down BYU’s ground attack. If that is the case, do I trust BYU Quarterback Jaren Hall to move the football through the air against Utah? The answer is no. He didn’t light up what was a terrible Arizona defense last season, and it will be more difficult here against an outstanding Utes defense.

BYU was expected to decline this season after losing so many key personnel from last year’s team. The fact they had their hands full with a weak and rebuilding Arizona program doesn’t bode well for them, in my opinion, here against a Utah squad that has the potential to not only contend in the PAC-12 but also win the conference. Utah is 6-2 ATS in the last 8 meetings against BYU. I don’t like laying points in rivalry games very often, but Utah -7 is the preferred side for me in this game.

BYU vs. No. 21 Utah Pick

Utah -7 (-110)

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