Its hard to keep track of who is playing who since college football was thrown into disarray, but we cap off the first week of play with a Labor Day matchup between two quality programs. Ben Rasa takes a look at his favorite college football betting picks for the final game of the first week of the college football season.
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A lot of teams had to cancel portions of their schedule due to COVID, so last-minute matchups between opponents have a lot of teams scrambling to prepare. Originally Navy was supposed to play Notre Dame in Ireland to kickoff the season, while BYU and Utah were going to add another chapter to their historic rivalry game. Both were cancelled, and now Navy and BYU meet up for just the third time in their programs’ histories.
College Football Betting Picks
Navy vs. BYU
Spread: BYU -1, O/U 48.5
Time: 8 p.m.EST ESPN
First up is the home team in Navy, who if you have seen play before, then you know they are all about the running game. They have games where they barely throw the ball at all, and it’s no surprise they led the entire country in rushing yards per game last season with a massive 355 yards on the ground. Preparing for and stopping the triple-option attack is incredibly difficult when one has time to prepare, never mind on short notice like BYU is here.
As good as the running game was last year, they will have their hands full trying to replicate it with the loss of their 2,000-yard rusher in quarterback Malcolm Perry. He brought stability and experience to their backfield, and now there is a major question mark about who will be under center when this season gets started. Most likely, senior Dalen Morris will get the first crack, but Navy has several players they can turn to. In addition, they have almost a dozen capable running backs to take some of that pressure off the new signal-caller. The offensive line looks to be in decent shape despite the loss of a few starters, and the receivers are solid enough despite rarely being targeted.
Defensively, Navy returns seven starters from last year’s 11-2 team last year and should put up quality numbers again in 2020. The strength of the defense seems to be in the secondary where they basically return intact from last year and are primed to jump up the passing defensive rankings. Up front they will need to plug some holes, and the defensive line would be my biggest concern coming into the season.
BYU comes into the season off a disappointing 2019 campaign where they finished 7-6 and lost in the Hawaii Bowl. That is far below the expectations of BYU football, and now they look to bounce back with 15 starters returning, including their quarterback Zach Wilson. Wilson was banged up at various points the last few years, and having him healthy is a big boost for the Cougars offense. He will need to find some new faces to throw to as BYU lost their top four pass catchers from last year to graduation or, in tight end Matt Bushman’s case, via injury. That group is the key unknown heading into the season, but the quarterback and top-end offensive line should set up BYU for a successful offensive campaign.
On the defensive side, they will have their hands full as most teams do in trying to stop the triple option. It is such a unique attack that teams rarely practice against it, and with all the craziness surrounding this year, it is hard to imagine BYU is adequately prepared for Navy’s offense. BYU has the personnel to deal with Navy, though, as seven defensive starters return from a unit that gave up 25.5 points and 168 yards per game on the ground. They have talent at every level of defense, and it really will come down to how prepared they are to stop an offense that most teams rarely see during a typical regular season.
Even in a normal college football season, there are a ton of questions with how teams will look in that opening game since the rosters can look so different year to year. Add in the unprecedented situation we are in this year, and it is even more difficult to determine which teams are prepared to kick off their seasons.
The two teams we have here have a lot of contrast between them, as BYU has an experienced quarterback who is devoid of weapons, while Navy returns a ton of running backs but lost their all-world signal-caller. Defensively both squads look to have a lot of talent back, and I think each will have the advantage over their offensive opponents. Navy loves to chew clock with their 15-play rushing drives, and I don’t expect BYU to play at an extreme tempo either. This has me looking towards the under, as both teams could stall in the red zone and big plays may be at a premium.
In terms of backing a side, I am going to wait until I see how this Navy offense looks and possibly take a position live. Usually with triple-option offenses, it is pretty apparent whether a defense is prepared or not, so seeing how the first few drives go could give us that insight to make a wager later in the game.
Pick: Under 48.5
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