Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, August 29, 2014 at 7:00 AM
Friday Night is kind of a lull between storms in terms of marquee matchups in college football. Some blockbusters Thursday…and then more blockbusters Saturday But, that doesn’t mean you should take the night off! ESPN has a doubleheader that will be kicked off by a potentially intriguing BYU/Connecticut showdown at 7 p.m. ET.
Why is this one potentially intriguing? Didn’t Connecticut start the season 0-9 last year before getting a few wins when it was too late to matter? Yes, if this game was played last October, nobody in the world would have paid attention to it. Rightfully so! Connecticut showed enough signs of life in the final stages of 2013 to suggest they might have a chance to compete if the highly favored visitor doesn’t take the game seriously.
Let’s review the key numbers from our summer conference previews…
Record: 8-5 (lost to Washington 31-16 in the Fight Hunger Bowl)
Rankings: 14 on offense, 47 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 6 on defense
Quarterback: Taysom Hill (Junior, rushing threat)
BYU did have a stellar offensive ranking of #14 in the nation. But, that was accomplished in a weird way. They were actually #10 in rushing, but only #71 in the air. If Connecticut can hang tough at the point of attack, then the BYU offense becomes mortal very quickly. You saw that last year when BYU struggled (in the rain) at Virginia, struggled vs. the decent defenses of Utah and Notre Dame, and then floundered in their bowl game. (Note that returning starter data in our summer previews came from the respected Athlon publication)
Generally speaking, you’ll want to handicap BYU this year in the following way: take them vs. vulnerable run defenses, but pass or fade them when they face teams who are decent against the run.
Rankings: 112 on offense, 51 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 5 on defense
Quarterback: Casey Cochran (redshirt sophomore)
Connecticut was a mediocre #51 on defense, but they were actually #23 against the run. Their home field has some very slow turf that has befuddled visitors unfamiliar with it. The key here is whether or not losing six starters on that side of the ball will take away their chance to compete with a quality visitor. “On paper,” the big dog does have a chance to hold its own up front.
Note that Quarterback Cochran was the signal caller in the three wins that finished the season, after others had tried and failed. Quick review:
*Connecticut (+6.5) beat Temple 28-21
*Connecticut (+2.5) beat Rutgers 28-17 (Rutgers would go to a bowl)
*Connecticut (+1.5) beat Memphis 45-10
That’s not a power by any means…but it’s a team that found itself late in the season. And, those scoring totals certainly suggest an offense that was better than #112 in the nation when Cochran was running the show. If the confidence and enthusiasm that was apparent late last year holds over into the new campaign, then Connecticut could be a value side for weeks to come.
Is all that enough to create compelling television Friday Night?
Las Vegas Line: BYU by 16.5, total of 52
The markets say NO! Though, there’s been a slight move toward Connecticut off an opener of 17. Handicappers will have to determine if the elements we’ve discussed today could signal a live dog ready to bark…or if defensive inexperience will cause huge problems against a BYU rushing attack that just abuses soft defenses (ask Texas about that!).
JIM HURLEY is planning at least a TV selection in this game for his clients. Check the purchase page for the final Friday word in the hours leading up to kickoff. Note that UNLV at Arizona is also on ESPN tonight, and Colorado State/Colorado is a big rivalry game on Fox Sports. If you have any questions about seasonal packages, or combination packages for football and baseball, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.
Our football TV previews continue through Labor Day here in the NOTEBOOK. Then we’ll start gearing up for the opening of the NFL regular season…
Saturday: College Football TV Preview…Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (Arlington)
Sunday: College Football TV Preview…Utah State at Tennessee
Labor Day: College Football TV Preview…Miami at Louisville
Tuesday: Tuesday: Final Look at AFC Market Estimates for Team Victories
Wednesday: Final Look at NFC Market Estimates for Team Victories
Thursday: NFL TV Preview…Green Bay at Seattle (pro season begins!)
Isn’t it great to have football back?! Don’t just watch the games on TV…WATCH AND WIN with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!