Loyal Cougars

9-Line Prediction: BYU v. Wisconsin

Loyal Cougars Editor Brandon Jones previews Saturday’s game against #10/12 Wisconsin with the LC 9-line Prediction: nine specific predictions presented as over-under betting lines.

Game Capsule

BYU Cougars (1-2) vs. #10/12 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0)

LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah

Kickoff Time: Saturday, September 9, 2017, 1:30pm MDT

TV: ABC (Mike Patrick/Tommy Tuberville/Paul Carcaterra), BYUtv Countdown to Kickoff (Dave McCann/Blaine Fowler) 12:30pm MDT

Radio: Nuskin Cougar Sports Network (Greg Wrubell/Marc Lyons): Sirius XM 143, KSL 1160 AM and 102.7 FM, and online at BYUcougars.com

BYU Game NotesWisconsin Game Notes

9-Line Predictions

Last week (v. Utah): 4-4-1

Overall Record (through 3 games): 15-11-1

Going .500 last week is not so bad in the always unpredictable rivalry game. After 3 games, we still know so little about this BYU team, especially offensively. We’ll see what tomorrow has in store for BYU as the Cougars trout out a new starting QB against a Top Ten opponent in Provo. Here are nine Vegas-style lines for which to watch in tomorrow’s game:

  1. Wisconsin Rushing Yards per Carry – LINE: 5.0 – Last week, Wisconsin’s true freshman running back Jonathan Taylor ran for 223 yards on 26 attempts for an average of 8.6 ypc. On the season, Wisconsin has run for about 6 yards per rush. It’s no wonder the Badgers have attempted 99 runs through 2 games. With an underperforming offense and an inexperienced QB, in order for BYU to have a chance to win tomorrow, we’ll need to see a run defense reminiscent of 2012, when the Cougars held opponents under 3 yards per carry. Even holding the Badgers under 4 yards per carry would probably lead to a close game. And BYU’s defense has been fairly stout against the run in 2017, allowing on average 3.86 yards per rushing attempt. BYU should be the best run defense the Badgers have faced (USU allowed 5.2 ypc and FAU gave up 6.6 ypc) and this is Wisconsin’s first road game of the year. UNDER
  2. BYU Offensive 3rd Down Conversion Rate – LINE: 40% – The BYU offense showed improvement last week against Utah, converting 40% of its 3rd Down attempts. But, all of that momentum is gone with a new QB under center in Beau Hoge. One can hope that most of BYU’s success came due to shorter yardage on 3rd Down. In the first two games, BYU’s average 3rd Down distance-to-go was 8.6 yards. Against Utah, the average was down to 7.3 yards. In a surprise to no one, against Utah, the average yardage-to-go on BYU’s six converted 3rd Downs was 5 yards while the average yardage on the nine failed 3rd Down attempts was 8.8 yards. Hopefully, with a more mobile quarterback, BYU’s 3rd Down distance-to-go will take another tick down and allow the Cougars to convert at a higher clip than the 31.6% they’ve done so far in 2017 (ranking 106th in the country). But, against a Badger defense that allows opponents to convert only 23.3% on 3rd Down (21st best in FBS), I don’t think BYU will break 40% this week. UNDER
  3. Wisconsin Passing Yards – LINE: 225 – Wisconsin’s passing game has been the difference between a 49-point blowout against Utah State and a more respectable showing by FAU in a 17-point road loss. Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook passed for a rating over 197 against Utah State [15-of-23 (65%) for 244 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions] but a rating of only 122 against Florida Atlantic [16-of-28 (57%) for 201 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception]. If, as expected, BYU proves to be the toughest rushing defense the Badgers have faced this season, Wisconsin may look to throw the ball a little bit more this week to make up the difference. Exactly how BYU performs against the pass will play a big role in determining the outcome of tomorrow’s game. UNDER
  4. BYU Red Zone Touchdowns – LINE: 50% – With Tanner Mangum out, BYU’s trips into the Wisconsin Red Zone will likely be even harder to come by. The Cougars will need to find a way to get inside the 20 as much as possible, and score touchdowns when they do so. Against Portland State, BYU scored just one touchdown on 5 trips inside the Red Zone. Against LSU, there were no trips to the Red Zone. And, last week against Utah, BYU improved in the Red Zone, scoring touchdowns on 2 of 3 chances. Since it’s unlikely that BYU will find itself in the Red Zone more than three times tomorrow, the Cougars need to capitalize on every opportunity they get. Wisconsin’s defense is just as stout as BYU in the red zone, allowing just two touchdowns on six opponent trips inside the Badger 20-yard-line. UNDER
  5. Turnover Margin Edge: BYU or Wisconsin? – Through two games, Wisconsin has turned the ball over four times (including 3 fumbles) and forced four turnovers of its own. In their three games, the Cougars have turned it over four times while forcing just 3 turnovers of its own. BYU Defensive Coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki would like to see more turnovers from this group than what we’ve seen through three games. The BYU defense improved last week, picking up two takeaways from the Utes. But, the offense regressed as Tanner Mangum threw three interceptions. I think we’ll see a similar result in this week’s game. Wisconsin
  6. Higher Receiving Total by a TE: BYU’s Bushman or Wisconsin’s Fumagalli? – Wisconsin’s leading receiver is tight end Troy Fumagalli. In only two games, Fumagalli has caught 13 passes for 197 yards. Matt Bushman has racked up 149 yards on 13 catches to lead all BYU receivers through 3 games. Last week against Utah, the Cougar defense seemed to surrender a lot of passing yards in the middle of the field, particularly at the spot in the zone between the second and third levels. With success in the run game, I expect Wisconsin to have similar success in that spot as the Badgers use playaction to pull BYU’s linebackers in toward the line of scrimmage and attack the gap in front of the safeties. Fumagalli
  7. BYU Rushing Yards – LINE: 100 – With Ula Tolutau all but christened as BYU’s primary running back, and a more mobile quarterback in Beau Hoge, you may think that BYU will have no trouble surpassing 100 yards on the ground tomorrow. But, Wisconsin’s defense ranks 32nd against the run, allowing only 95 rushing yards per game (85 to Utah State and 106 to Florida Atlantic). With a backup quarterback, we’ll likely see a slight uptick in BYU’s rushing attempt number from the 24 we saw last week against Utah. That increase, combined with a respectable 3-4 ypc average, may prove just enough to lift BYU over 100 rushing yards for the day. OVER
  8. Total Points – LINE: 40.5 – I’ve said this for three weeks now, but Saturday’s game will yet again feature two of the top defenses in college football. And BYU’s offense certainly isn’t expected to light up the scoreboard. I think we’ll see yet another low-scoring affair. The under has paid big in all three BYU games thus far and there’s no reason to expect any differently tomorrow. UNDER
  9. LINE: Wisconsin by -16.5 – BYU COVER – I would consider the day a success if BYU is able to score 10 points on offense. Let’s face it: we’re not expecting too much out of those guys. If BYU is going to win tomorrow, the defense is going to need to make it happen with a combination of defensive stops, turnovers, and defensive scores. If the defense was able to hold LSU to 27 points in what was basically a road game, it should be able to hold the Wisconsin offense to 24 at home. That’s the score I predict. Anything closer than that I would consider a step in the right direction, especially with the backup QB running the offense, heading into the bye week. BYU 10, Wisconsin 24

What do you think? Pick against the lines for yourself and let me know how you did. You can use the comment section below or join the discussion on Cougarboard.

Depth Chart/Roster

Lastly, here is a look at the projected Depth Chart for Saturday’s game.

You can download the JPG and PDF versions of the latest Depth Chart, as well as a current roster, at the following location:


Go Cougs!