The FCS Southern Utah Thunderbirds are looking for one of the biggest upset wins in school history on Thursday night when they open at big brother and Pac-12 school Utah, with the Utes as overwhelming favorites in online NCAA football betting.
How To Bet the Southern Utah vs Utah College Football Week 1 Free Pick & TV Info
When: Thursday, Sept. 1, 8 PM ET
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
TV: Pac-12 Network
Opening NCAAF Lines: Utah -28, total TBA
Why Bet on Southern Utah?
The Thunderbird are a good FCS program. They finished 8-4 last year and were 7-1 in the Big Sky Conference, defeating their Big Sky opponents by an average of 22.2 points per game. Despite losing in the first round of playoffs, the Big Sky champions finished the season with eight wins and set a school record for the most consecutive wins in a season with seven. The Thunderbirds also reached their highest rankings ever in both the FCS Coaches Poll.
Coach Ed Lamb left to become a coordinator at BYU, and assistant Demario Warren took over. Without standouts such as safety Miles Killebrew and defensive end James Cowser, who went to the NFL, the T-birds lose a great portion of what made their defense dominant (a Big Sky-best 20.8 ppg allowed). But SUU brings back 15 starters.
McCoy Hill will start at QB. He transferred to SUU from BYU last December and was named the starter coming out of spring ball, but coaches said the competition would resume during fall camp. Over the last four weeks, Hill has taken almost every snap with the first-team offense. So it became a question of not if, but when he would be named the starter.
The Utes will be expected to win their ninth straight season opener, but they’ll similarly prepare for the unexpected.
“You prepare the same way,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Little different strategic elements to the game, but it’s an opener nonetheless. … There’s a lot of unknowns, and you've gotta be ready to adjust. That’s the nature of an opener."
Why Bet on Utah?
Utah tied for the Pac-12 South Division title with a 6-3 conference mark last year. The Utes finished 10-3 overall with a Las Vegas Bowl win over BYU to culminate the season. Utah was ranked in the national polls for 15 straight weeks and in all seven College Football Playoff rankings, finishing No. 17 AP, No. 16 Coaches and No. 22 CFP.
With 14 starting returners, the Utes bring back six on offense in Sam Tevi (LT), Isaac Asiata (LG), Salesi Uhatafe (RG), J.J. Dielman (RT), Siale Fakailoatonga (TE), and Tyrone Smith, and with seven on the defensive side in Kylie Fitts (DE), Lowell Lotulelei (DT), Filipo Mokofisi (DT), Dominique Hatfield (CB), Reginald Porter (CB), Justin Thomas (NB), and Marcus Williams (FS).
There’s a lot of different faces in different places, including Troy Williams at quarterback, Joe Williams at running back, Sunia Tauteoli and Cody Barton at linebacker and Mitch Wishnowsky at punter.
The Utes are 6-0 against the FCS under Whittingham. The closest game in that span was a 37-21 win over Weber State in 2008. Utah is 17-1 in nonconference games since joining the Pac-12 Conference back in 2011.
Utah has won its last eight season openers in a streak dating back to a 2008 victory at Michigan. In seasons where the first game was played in Salt Lake City, the Utes have won 11 straight starting with a 2001 win over Utah State. The Utes are 72-49- 1 all-time in season openers and 54-19- 1 when the season opener is at home.
My Free Pick
Take Utah to cover on NCAA football lines. There often isn't a total when an FBS team faces an FCS club.