Friday's Tip Sheet
August 27, 2014
By Brian Edwards
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**Brigham Young at Connecticut**
-- As of early Wednesday afternoon, most betting shops had BYU installed as a 16.5-point road favorite with a total of 51. Gamblers can take the Huskies to win outright for a +550 return (risk $100 to win $550).
-- BYU is coming off a season in which it went 8-5 straight up and 6-7 against the spread. The Cougars dropped a 31-16 decision to Washington at the Fight Hunger Bowl. BYU's other defeats came at Virginia (19-16), vs. Utah (20-13), at Wisconsin (27-17) and at Notre Dame (23-13). The highlight of the year was a 40-21 home win over Texas as a seven-point underdog. The Cougars also won 31-14 at Utah State and trashed Georgia Tech 38-20 as seven-point home 'chalk.'
-- Bronco Mendenhall's team returns eight starters on offense and six on defense. This is his 10th season as head coach. Junior QB Taysom Hill is the star of this squad and for those unfamiliar, he might remind you of Tim Tebow. Hill is a bruising runner who has speed but does some of his best work between the tackles. He rushed for a team-high 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Hill's passing numbers improved as the year went on, and he finished with 2,938 passing yards and a 19/14 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
-- BYU junior running back Jamaal Williams won't play Friday night due to a one-game suspension. Williams rushed for 1,233 yards and seven TDs last year, averaging 5.7 YPC. Also, WR Devon Blackmon and starting nose tackle Marques Johnson will serve one-game suspensions. Blackmon, a Juco transfer who initially signed with Oregon and played three games for the Ducks in 2012, was the prize recruit in the Cougars' 2014 class. Johnson made 31 tackles last season.
-- BYU senior LB Alani Fua is 'questionable' with a strained hip flexor. Fua was the Cougars' sixth-leading tackler in 2013 when he was in on 63 stops. He had three sacks, 10 passes broken up, two tackles for loss and a pair of QB hurries.
-- UConn went 3-9 SU and 5-7 ATS last season, prompting the school to send Paul Pasqualoni packing. On the bright side, the Huskies ended the year on a three-game winning streak. They return seven starters on offense and six on defense.
-- Bob Diaco takes over as the new head coach after spending the last five years (four at Notre Dame, one at Cincinnati) as Brian Kelly's defensive coordinator. Diaco, who is a first-time head coach, hired Mike Cummings as his offensive coordinator. Cummings held the same post at Central Michigan the last four years. The co-DCs are Anthony Poindexter (former DBs coach at Virginia) and former New England Patriot Vincent Brown, who was also on the UVA staff for the last four seasons.
-- UConn will go with sophomore Casey Cochran as its starting QB. Cochran started the last four games of 2013. He played eight games last year, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 1,293 yards with an 11/4 TD-INT ratio.
-- UConn has nearly all of its WRs back. Geremy Davis is one of the AAC's top wideouts and is coming off a year in which he hauled in 71 catches for 1,085 yards and three TDs.
-- UConn's Lyle McCombs rushed for a team-high 670 yards and five TDs while averaging 4.2 YPC in 2013. However, in a recent development, McCombs elected to transfer to Rhode Island.
-- Since 2005, UConn has posted an incredible 19-4 spread record in 23 games as a home underdog. Only four of those contests had the Huskies catching a double-digit number, and they went 3-1 in those spots.
-- BYU owns a 15-16 spread record as a road favorite during Mendenhall's tenure. The Cougars went 0-3 in such spots last year.
-- Kick-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**UNLV at Arizona**
-- As of early Wednesday afternoon, most books were listing Arizona as a 24-point favorite with a total of 60. Most offshore shops opened UA at 23 or 23.5 and started the total at 57. When most of the Vegas books put up 60, the offshores instantly made the three-point adjustment. Bettors can back the Rebels on the money line for a +1350 payout at 5Dimes (risk $100 to win $1,350).
-- Arizona has gone 8-5 and won bowl games in back-to-back seasons since Rich Rodriguez took over as head coach. The Wildcats, who were 7-6 ATS last year, blasted Boston College 42-19 as seven-point 'chalk' at the AdvoCare V100 Bowl.
-- R-Rod's squad returns seven starters on offense and six on defense. UA has to replace its all-time leading rusher in Ka'Deem Carey, who had 1,885 rushing yards and 19 TDs in 2013. The Wildcats must also replace QB B.J. Denker, who rushed for 949 yards and 13 TDs last season. Denker also had 2,516 passing yards with a 16/7 TD-INT ratio.
-- Rodriguez is turning to a redshirt freshman, Anu Solomon, to take over for Denker as the starting QB. Solomon is a native of Las Vegas who attended prep powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School and was heavily recruited by UNLV. He will be the first Arizona freshman to start a season opener since Willie Tuitama in 2005. Rodriguez told the media, "I thought he deserved the right to start the first game. I don't know who the next guy is, but I told all four to be ready to play, because all four could play. He's playing the best of the four quarterbacks. He has a good feel for the game, and he did things better on a more consistent basis."
-- After winning only six games in the first three seasons of Bobby Hauck's tenure, UNLV won seven of its last 10 regular-season games to garner its first bowl bid since 2000. The Rebels, who finished 7-6 SU and 8-5 ATS, won outright as underdogs in their last two games to become eligible for the postseason. However, the year ended on a down note when they got spanked by a 36-14 count as 6.5-point 'dogs to North Texas at the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
-- UNLV returns seven starters on offense and six on defense, but it must replace its top two offensive weapons. Tim Cornett, the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,733 career rushing yards, is gone after rushing for 15 TDs in 2013. Also, QB Caleb Herring isn't around following a season in which he threw for 2,718 yards with a stellar 24/5 TD-INT ratio.
-- Blake Decker beat out Nick Sherry for UNLV's starting QB job. Decker, who grew up in the Tempe area as an Arizona State fan, has always thought of Arizona as the enemy. Decker, a 23-year-old junior who began his career at BYU and went on a two-year Mormon mission, was one of the nation's best QBs in the Juco ranks in 2013. He threw for 4,241 yards and 47 TDs for Scottsdale (Az.) Community College.
-- UNLV compiled an abysmal 1-11 spread record in its first 12 games as a road underdog on Hauck's watch. However, the Rebels have gone 3-1 ATS as road 'dogs in back-to-back seasons.
-- Arizona is 5-6 ATS as a home favorite on R-Rod's watch. The Wildcats are 5-4 ATS in nine games as double-digit favorites (whether at home or away).
-- Arizona has won 13 consecutive home openers by an average margin of 26 points per game. The Wildcats haven't lost a home opener going all the way back to 1987.
-- When these schools met at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas last year, Arizona raced out to a 45-6 halftime lead en route to a 58-13 win as a 10.5-point road 'chalk.'
--ESPN will have the broadcast at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.
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