Match-Up: BYU (Independent) vs. #22 Utah (Pac-12)
Spread- Utah (-2.5)
Location- Las Vegas | Sam Boyd Stadium
When- Saturday, December 19th 3:30 PM
Where to Watch- ABC
After losing starting quarterback Taysom Hill for the second consecutive season with a season-ending foot injury in the opening game at Nebraska, in came backup and freshman Tanner Mangum to relieve Hill’s duties for the remainder of the season, and boy was it memorable. Mangum threw a 42-yard hail mary as time expired to stun the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, which made him an instant icon around the college football landscape. Unfortunately, longtime head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced last week that he will be the new head coach at Virginia, leaving a BYU program in which he spent the last 10 years at. Mendenhall did say that he will coach in this bowl game before departing for Charlottesville.
Players to Watch
Tanner Mangum (QB)- Magnum became a popular player in college football after coming in for injured starter Taysom Hill in the opening game at Nebraska. Magnum had a miraculous 42-yard hail mary touchdown to stun the Cornhuskers in Lincoln that wounded up being one of the craziest plays of the 2015 season. Magnum followed up that miracle by throwing for 3,062 yards including 21 touchdowns and 7 interceptions at a 62.2% completion rate.
Fred Warner (LB)- Warner was the main cog in the center of the Cougars defense all season long and was consistently a disruptive force. He tallied 11 tackles for loss to go along with 4 sacks and 63 total tackles. Just a true sophomore, Warner will be a force to be reckoned with for the Cougars program over the next few years.
How BYU Can Win
If the Cougars want to pull the upset, they will have to win in a shootout and put pressure on the Utes’ offense who has consistently struggled in the passing game this year. However, the Utah defense has been excellent this season, averaging just 21.8 PPG, which is second in the Pac-12. Other than UCLA, this will be the most talented defense BYU has played this year. Quarterback Tanner Magnum is capable of playing well in big games and if he brings his A game, this Cougars offense will challenge the Utes.
Once upon a time, the Utah Utes were once ranked #4 in the country after defeating the likes of Michigan and Cal en route to a 6-0 start and a early favorite for a conference championship and potential final 4 berth in the College Football Playoff. Then came the meeting at USC, when the Trojans steamrolled the Utes 42-24 at the Coliseum to all but end their playoff hopes. From that point on, the Utes were never quite the same, losing two of their last three games but did finish at a solid 9-3 record. The Utes come into this one off a 20-14 home victory versus Colorado.
Players to Watch
Travis Wilson (QB)- With star tailback Devontae Booker on the shelf for the remainder of the season after knee surgery, the pressure mounts even more for Wilson, who had a 13 to 10 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season. Wilson is a game manager who doesn’t take many risks down the field (just 6.7 yards per pass), and he’s coming into this game off his worst game of the season, in which he completed just 10 passes and at only a 38% clip.
Marcus Williams (CB)- Sophomore cornerback Marcus Williams has been a ball-hawk this season, snatching five interceptions on the season which is second in the Pac-12. Williams has been a steady force in a solid Utah secondary, and look for him to be all over the field in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.
How Utah Can Win
The Utes defense will have to be stellar and keep this a low scoring game. In order to do that, they will have to keep an explosive BYU offense off the field and dominate the time of possession. In order to do that, they obviously have to run the ball effectively, which is not an easy task without team MVP Devontae Booker. Junior Joe Williams is Booker’s backup, and he’s coming off his best game of his collegiate career with 164 rushing yards and a score, including a 5.5 yards per carry game. Williams will have to be equally as impressive if Utah wants to come out on top.
Final Prediction- BYU defeats Utah 28-24.
Christian Reilly- @CReillyTV
Photo Credit -http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000458973/article/utah-rb-devontae-booker-bypassing-draft-returning-to-school