Saturday, November 21, 2020, LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah, 3 p.m. ET
Lions at Cougars Betting Preview: Lions (+47.5), Cougars (-47.5)
North Alabama (0-3), a Football Championship Subdivision member out of the Big South Conference, is playing its final game in an abbreviated fall season. The Lions may not be the gaudiest opponent for BYU’s postseason resume, but Cougars coach Kalani Sitake offered high praise for Lions coach, Chris Willis.
“He prepares his guys the right way,” Sitake said. “He’s had some really good mentors, and he’s been at North Alabama a long time.”
Willis’ mentors include Mark Hudspeth and Terry Bowden, both of whom led North Alabama when it was a Division II powerhouse during the 2000s and 2010s.
North Alabama began the transition from Division II to the FCS level in 2018. The university opted for a four-game fall season in lieu of the Big South’s spring 2021 season.
The Lions’ truncated season has been trying, with the most recent outing a 24-13 loss at Southern Mississippi on Nov. 7. But Sitake cited the Lions’ performance Oct. 3 in a 28-7 loss at Liberty, an undefeated independent program much like BYU.
“They held an explosive offense like Liberty to seven points in the first half,” Sitake said. “You look at the other games, and they haven’t given up more than 28 points.”
Though solid on defense, the Lions have struggled offensively. They come into Provo averaging just 49.7 rushing yards and 183 passing yards per game. They have scored a total of 37 points, and this week face a BYU defense that has held six of eight opponents below 20.
In contrast, BYU is rolling up 45.3 points per game.
“What a year to play BYU, huh? What a year to play them,” Willis said on his Monday coaches show. “This will be the best football team I’ve ever coached against in my 20-something years of coaching. This is something you can look back at one day and say you were a part of, that you went up against a team of this caliber.”
No. 8 BYU has not played a schedule conducive to playoff consideration in normal years, including this matchup against an FCS opponent, but the abnormality of 2020 could work in the Cougars’ favor. The Cougars (8-0) made their most emphatic statement their last time out, routing Boise State on the road, 51-17, on Nov. 6.
The Cougars’ explosive offense starts with quarterback Zach Wilson, a budding Heisman Trophy candidate with 22 touchdown passes and eight scoring rushes on the season. Wilson went 22-of-28 passing for 360 yards and three touchdowns last time out at Boise State, and tacked on an additional rushing touchdown.
Wilson has thrown multiple touchdown passes in every game this season and only been intercepted twice. North Alabama, meanwhile, has three picks in three games. Gerrell Green, who is responsible for one of the Lions’ interceptions, also has two passes defensed and a forced fumble.
The Cougars currently are the only FBS team ranked in the Top 10 nationally in scoring offense (9th, 45.3 points a game), scoring defense (6th, 13.9), total offense (8th, 533.4 yards per game), and total defense (6th, 284.)
Lions at Cougars Betting Pick for November 21, 2020
The Lions limp in having scored a total of 37 points in three games. They did managed to hold Southern Mississippi to a 24-17 win, but the Eagles are a struggling team in 2020 with only two wins in eight games.
Lions at Cougars Betting Pick:
Cougars 63, Lions 7
Lions at Cougars Best Bet for November 21, 2020
Only once this season have the Cougars failed to get to the 40-point mark, that a 27-20 win over Texas-San Antonio back on October 10. This will be a name-that-score affair against a winless FCS opponent.
Lions at Cougars Best Bet: OVER 58.5