Bowl Preview Bonanza, Part I




UTAH UTES (9-3) vs. BYU COUGARS (9-3)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT


Las Vegas Line: Utah -2.5

Rare is the bowl game that pits genuine rivals against one another, but the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl gets one of the most heated in all of college football.

Despite taking a brief hiatus from the series dubbed the Holy War, the flames burn as intensely as ever. And, just in case they were dwindling, Utah defensive end Viliseni Fauonuku doused the fire with gasoline.

Is he wrong? I mean…the last time BYU played in a bowl game, this happened:

And the Cougars had no preexisting relationship with Memphis, like they do Utah. Forget Nate Diaz vs. Michael Johnson later in the night, the hardest hitting altercation of the day might well be in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Should the bitter rivals keep the competition limited to the playing field, the Las Vegas Bowl will be a dandy. Both teams rode stifling defense to 9-3 regular-season finishes, though offensive inconsistencies prevented either from reaching their full potential.

BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum was spectacular in spots, with big wide receivers Mitchell Juergens and Mitch Mathews helping to alleviate his margin for error.

Mathews in particular was excellent this season, hauling in 11 touchdown receptions. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham could well opt for double-teams and putting effective pass-defending linebacker Gionni Paul into coverage to negate Mathews’ impact.

BYU struggled against physical defenses all season, from UCLA to Michigan to Missouri. Had Connecticut been able to mount any offense whatsoever, the Huskies could have pulled off an upset with their control on the other side of the ball.

The Cougar defense must step up, and it gets some help with Devontae Booker scratched from the lineup. However, Joe Williams was effective in the final two regular-season games, surpassing 300 yards against UCLA and Colorado.

Expect Bronco Mendenhall, in his final game leading the Cougars, to sell out against the run, thus forcing Travis Wilson to air it out. Teams like USC succeeded employing such a strategy against the Utes.

Points will be in short supply, and such a pace favors Utah. The Utes can take home a lot more than a bowl trophy from Las Vegas with their fifth straight win over BYU.


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