The 2019 college football season really couldn’t have started any worse for the University of Tennessee. There’s no shame at all in losing to an elite FCS program like the juggernaut that Craig Bohl and Chris Klieman built at North Dakota State winning 7 of the last 8 division championships. There is plenty of shame in losing to a lower level FBS team coming off a 2-10 season when you play in the SEC. That’s what happened to Tennessee last week as they lost to Georgia State 38-30 on their home field at Neyland Stadium as a -24 point favorite.
A couple of time zones away in Provo, Utah the BYU Cougars also opened their season in a losing effort against traditional rivals Utah. A lot of luster has gone from the series as the Utes have moved up to the Pac-12 where they’re expected to compete for the conference title this year. BYU is still a solid team but they no longer rule the Mountain Time Zone the way they did during the LaVell Edwards era. The Cougars dropped a 30-12 decision to the Utes failing to cover as +5 home underdogs.
BYU is one of those teams that always gives a solid effort and for that reason they’re one I look to bet on more often than not. This spot, however, is perfect for fading the Cougars. In fact, this could be the rare instance where a game against a SEC team is a ‘lookahead spot’. BYU has home games against USC and Washington on deck. Not only are these tough Pac-12 opponents they hail from regions where BYU is always active in recruiting. Gone are the days when any blue chip LDS athlete automatically headed to BYU so these two games are important from that standpoint–and particularly with both at home.
Nothing but respect for BYU head coach Kalani Sitake–his teams always show up prepared and work hard as evidenced by his 9-2 ATS run as a road underdog. Unfortunately, he can’t do anything about catching a team with superior talent in a spot like this. BYU has never had much success against the SEC–they’re actually 0-8 ATS since 1992 (3-5 SU) and they’re 4-11 ATS playing on grass fields. A bigger issue could be the Cougars’ rushing defense–typically a strong point, BYU allowed 256 yards and two rushing TDs against the Utes.
Tennessee has been a horrific pointspread play over the past few years. They’re on a 8-17 ATS run overall including 2-8 ATS as a favorite and 3-12 ATS at Neyland Stadium. They’ve been awful early in the season going 3-7 ATS in September and 2-7 ATS in non-conference play. We’re getting line value due to the ’embarrassment factor’ of their loss to Georgia State last week. Had the Vols taken care of business they’d be a -7 or -7′ point favorite here. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt entered the year with 10 starters returning on offense and given credit for improving the Vols on both sides of the ball last year. That could change quickly, however, if his team shows up with another unfocused effort. Perfect spot for a UT ‘bounce back’ and if their offense plays up to ability there’s no way that BYU can trade points with them.