ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 28: Players of the BYU Cougars celebrate during a game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Cowboys Stadium on October 28, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. The TCU Horned Frogs defeated the BYU Cougars 38-28. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Seldom can you approach the sportsbook window in Vegas and say with 100% certainty: the Cougars will win this game.
Indeed, the Cougars are a lock to win Thursday night in college football action, but will it be the Washington State Cougars or the BYU Cougars? And more importantly, which Cougars will cover the spread?
WSU makes its debut under new head coach Mike Leach against the Cougars of Brigham Young Thursday night in Provo (10:15 pm Eastern, ESPN). They have struggled badly as an underdog, going 3-17 SU over the past few seasons in that role.
As of Tuesday evening, most college football betting outlets were lining this game with BYU favored by around 13 points, with an 'over/under' of 63. That total has been bumped from its opening of 61.
Brigham Young can also be played at around -480 on the money line at various online sportsbooks, with Wazzu getting +380 to win this game outright. Week 1 NCAA football trends are not kind to big favorites, according to the database at Odds Shark.
BYU returns seven starters on both sides of the ball from a team that went 10-3 last year and won a bowl. QB Riley Nelson (19/7 TD/INT last year) is back for his senior season, joined by his top three pass-catchers and three along the offensive line. And that defense retains five of the back seven from a unit that ranked 13th in the country last year, allowing just 313 YPG.
Washington State, meanwhile, also gets back seven starters on each side of the ball, from a team that went 4-8 last year. So the cupboard is far from bare for Coach Leach, who just happens to be a BYU grad who attended school there during some of the heydays of the Coach Edwards era.
In Leach's first season in charge at Texas Tech back in 2000 he guided the Red Raiders to a 7-6 mark and a bowl game.
Pick: WSU is going through the learning curve with Coach Leach's systems, while BYU is pretty stable, with a solid defense. So we'll go with the Cougars of Brigham Young minus the points on this one.