LAS VEGAS -- If this is a rebuilding year for BYU, which had to replace star quarterback Zach Wilson and four other NFL draft picks from an 11-win team, the plans are ahead of schedule.
A big reason for the Cougars’ sudden surge is redshirt sophomore Jaren Hall, the successor to Wilson, who was the No. 2 overall pick by the Jets. Hall is proving to be the real deal as a passing and running threat while triggering BYU’s 2-0 start.
Before joining a new-look Big 12 Conference, the Cougars are running with a few Pac-12 opponents. BYU handled Arizona in the season opener before stopping a nine-game losing streak to rival Utah with a 26-17 upset win last week in Provo, where fans stormed the field and coach Kalani Sitake celebrated on the sideline like there was no tomorrow.
But after a wild party, there’s usually a hangover, and this looks like a classic flat spot for the Cougars as they prepare to host Arizona State. Sharp money is fading BYU, which is a home underdog mostly because its situational spot is so concerning.
Still, the Cougars have been more impressive than the Sun Devils through two games. Hall has passed for 347 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 128 yards. He’s playing at a higher level than Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels, who was able to coast through blowout wins against Southern Utah and UNLV yet now faces a much tougher BYU defense.
The Sun Devils are 5-12 ATS as favorites under coach Herm Edwards. If Sitake can motivate his team, and the Saturday night energy from the home crowd will help, the Cougars should be live dogs with a good shot to go 3-0 against the Pac-12.
The pick: BYU + 4
PENN STATE (-5) over Auburn: The Tigers opened the Bryan Harsin era by hanging 60 points on Akron and 62 on Alabama State; few college football teams are worse than the Zips and Hornets. Harsin’s honeymoon ends with a trip to Happy Valley in front of a “White Out” crowd.
The Nittany Lions’ defense will not be hospitable to Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, whose home (22 touchdowns, three interceptions) and away (10 TDs, 10 INTs) career passing splits indicate he’s in for a rude awakening on the road. The Big Ten should win this challenge against the SEC.
BOISE STATE (-3.5) over Oklahoma State: Spencer Sanders is an exciting dual-threat playmaker who makes the Cowboys dangerous, but he’s not the better quarterback in this matchup. Hank Bachmeier has passed for 603 yards and four touchdowns for the Broncos, who totaled 85 points in their first two games. Boise State is 8-2 ATS in its past 10 on the blue turf.
Last week: 2-2
Arkansas (W), Toledo (W), UConn (L), UNLV-Arizona State Over (L)