Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - BYU has won its last two games, defeating Hawaii, 47-0, and Utah State, 6-3. The Cougars also have beaten Oregon State in the last two meetings, knocking the Beavers off, 38-28, in Corvallis last season and by 24 points in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl.
Bronco Mendenhall's squad has been a solid wager of late with a 9-2 against- the-spread record since dumping Oregon State on the road last year. Furthermore, the Cougars have been one of the better home teams in the country with 10 consecutive straight-up wins.
Oregon State comes into LaVell Edwards Stadium without its starting quarterback as Sean Mannion is out indefinitely with a knee injury. His replacement, Cody Vaz, has yet to start a collegiate game, having thrown only 17 career passes with six completions two years ago.
Look for the Beavers to try to run the ball more than they have, but that strategy might not bring them any success. BYU is leading the nation against the run, allowing just 59.5 yards per game. In addition, they also are the only team to have held the opposition to fewer than two yards per carry.
Even if Vaz shows more of a passing touch in 2012 than he did in 2010, it is doubtful Oregon State will be able to drive down the field as the Cougars are eighth nationally in defensive passing yards per attempt.
Either way it's not as if the Beavers have had a dominant offensive game, even with Mannion under center. They scored just 19 points at home against Washington State last Saturday and are averaging 23.5 points per game overall. That number will take a major hit after facing BYU in Provo.
The Cougars might not score many points themselves as they are averaging 20 ppg over their last four contests. They too have to play without the quarterback who has led them to two straight victories.
Taysom Hill is out for the season with a left knee injury, but at least the Cougars have a veteran signal-caller to go to in Riley Nelson. The senior struggled in the Boise State game, but he had averaged 245 passing yards per game in his first three contests with a 5-2 touchdown/interception ratio.
Expect a low-scoring game with the Cougars getting the victory by at least a touchdown.
Take BYU minus six points in the first of two five-star plays.
The other game features Utah State and San Jose State.
Utah State ran into the buzzsaw that is the BYU defense last Friday, but take away that contest and the Aggies are averaging four touchdowns per game.
More importantly, they have one of the most underrated defenses in the country. The Aggies are tied for 8th nationally (with LSU) in scoring defense, ninth in yards allowed per play and 10th in quarterback completion percentage.
San Jose State is no slouch on defense, either, as the Spartans are tied for 24th (with Iowa) in total defense and 18th in passing defense. However, their schedule has been much easier than Utah State's the first month of the season.
Utah State has won the last two meetings despite a minus-five turnover differential. The Aggies also outgained the Spartans by a combined 218 yards in those two contests.
The wrong team is favored in this one.
Take the Aggies plus 3.5 points.
Fresno State has not had much success against Boise State in recent years. The Bulldogs are 0-6 both SU and ATS since defeating the Broncos in 2005. Moreover, they have been outscored 220-51 over the last four meetings.
However, this is not the same Boise State team. The 2012 version is 4-1 but two of its victories have come by a combined four points. The two other wins were against Miami of Ohio and versus a Southern Miss team that started its third- string quarterback. Boise State crushed the Golden Eagles, 40-14, in Hattiesburg, but the home team outgained the Broncos by over 100 yards.
Fresno State is 4-2 with the two losses coming at Oregon and at Tulsa (by one point). It's not a stretch to say that the Bulldogs have more offensive firepower than the Broncos and it will show on the blue turf at Bronco Stadium.
Take Fresno State plus 7.5 points.
The other three-star selection is under 46.5 points in the Utah State-San Jose State matchup.
Go with Idaho +2.5 (Texas State), Rice -3 (Texas-San Antonio) and Kansas +24 (Oklahoma State).
Take Houston -13.5 (UAB), Boston College +28 (Florida State), Louisiana Tech +8.5 (Texas A&M), West Virginia -3.5 (Texas Tech) and Tennessee +3 (Mississippi State).