Picking the outcome of football games certainly isn’t a science; it's a game in itself — a crazy game.
Accurately picking who will come out the winner when Utah hosts BYU in Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday falls in this realm.
But this is what pundits do: You place a pick out there, tee it up, guess, then see what unfolds.
Last week, I penciled in a conservative list of picks and lost five out of 11 games. Favorites lost, and I crashed.
The losing picks were taking Oklahoma over Houston; Boston College over Georgia Tech; LSU over Wisconsin; UCLA over Texas A&M; and Virginia over lower division Richmond, Bronco Mendenhall’s season opener at home.
Back in 2011, BYU fan James Cottrell, who will go on his 32nd road trip when the Cougars go to Washington, D.C., and play West Virginia, had a bet with Ute co-worker Brent Dalby.
“That year BYU was favored to beat Utah by 10 points,” said Cottrell. Dalby, whom Cottrell describes as a guy who is “inked up” with a lot of tattoos, told Cottrell he would give him BYU and 14 points. That means Utah would have to upset BYU and do it by 14. But, proclaimed Dalby, if the Cougars lost, Cottrell would have to get a tattoo somewhere on his otherwise unmarked body.
Utah didn’t just cover the 14; the Utes won 54-10.
Cottrell now wears a sizable block “Y” tattoo on above his right ankle, clearly on display at the ESPN 700 Radio Blue-Red Ryder Cup golf tournament at Fox Hollow on Thursday. “I got to pick the tattoo,” he said.
This is why picking games is slippery and going with favorites can be risky.
The easy BYU-Utah pick is to go with the favorite: Utah. It’s the home team, and a Utah program under Kyle Whittingham that has won five straight. Roll with that and you can’t go wrong. Right? Maybe.
Utah has a tremendous defensive front four and their backups are just as stout. Utah’s secondary features NFL-type talent, and Ute special teams are, well, special.
On the other hand, where the Utes will start a quarterback in Troy Williams who is playing his first FCS game, a rivalry game no less, and he’s going up against a fifth-year senior in 26-year old Taysom Hill is a definite edge for the Cougars.
If you asked yourself in August, who has traditionally had a better offense, Arizona or Utah, you’d probably answer Arizona. Yet, BYU’s defense under Kalani Sitake limited the Wildcats last week to just 16 points and its offense had minus-12 yards rushing to begin the third quarter.
This is a tremendous issue in this game, one that will be fun to watch. How effective will Utah’s offense attack BYU’s defense with Williams, essentially a rookie? Utah’s big, athletic offensive line will have a huge impact on answering that question.
On the other side of things, if BYU’s defense causes Williams problems and Utah’s offense stutters or has turnover issues, can Taysom Hill put enough points on the board to hold on in the fourth quarter, a stage of the game in which Utah will have a depth advantage on both sides of the trenches?
Will BYU continue to have turnover problems, a trend that has been the major factor in Utah winning five straight?
I think this will be a defensive battle. But, of course, I thought the Arizona-BYU game would be a high-scoring affair, and it was anything but a shootout. The possessions and ball security in this rivalry game will determine the winner.
It’s a great marquee game, properly slated for a national television audience.
This week’s games:
Navy 28, UConn 17: Midshipmen easily sail by Big 12 hopeful.
Colorado 38, Idaho State 10: Buffs flexing none-conference muscle.
TCU 24, Arkansas 21: Gary Patterson needs this SEC win.
UCLA 38, UNLV 14: Bruins rebound from loss to Texas A&M.
Texas Tech 37, ASU 17: Pac 12 South lower division weakness shows.
Boise State 38, Washington State 35: Tough to win in Albertsons Stadium.
Cal 35, San Diego State 31: Great in-state battled with Bear rising up.
Oregon 44, Virginia 10: Bronco’s Cavaliers looked horrible versus Richmond.
Southern Cal 28, Utah State 17: Devante Mays finds going tough against Troy.
Southern Utah 28, Southeast Louisiana 10: Nice home opening win for T-Birds.
BYU 17, Utah 14: A senior quarterback delivers upset.
Last week: 6-5.