BYU vs. Arizona in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. in Las Vegas, NV on ESPN
Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada will host Arizona and BYU for their bowl game. This bowl has been played since 1992 and this will be the fourth consecutive appearance by BYU and the first by Arizona (its first bowl appearance since 1998) according to Wikipedia.The stadium capacity is around 40,000 which will be a pretty fair mix of fans given the similar distance between the schools and the bowl according to Google Maps, but is smaller than both schools’ home stadiums. Below you will find analysis of each school’s offense, defense, and special teams based on statistics compiled from FoxSports.com.
Offense: BYU has an effective offense this year averaging 444.8 yards per game to rank 17th. They do it mostly through the air throwing for 308.9 yards (7th), but their ground game is effective as well gaining just under 136 yards per game (72nd). QB Max Hall threw for 3,629 and 34 touchdowns this year while only throwing 13 interceptions. BYU has scored 35.3 points per game to rank 17th in scoring offense.
Defense: The Cougars are an average defensive team allowing opponents to rush for 144.2 yards per game (64th) and pass for 206.5 yards per game (59th). They allow 21.2 points per game to rank 34th overall in scoring allowed.
Special Teams: BYU only averaged 3.8 yards per punt return and 25.19 yards per kick return this year and had no returns for touchdowns. They allowed 22 yards per kick return (82nd) and 7.7 per punt return (48th).
Offense: Arizona ran for 164 yards per game (48th) this season while passing for 237.3 yards per game (40th). Their overall offense ranked 34th in the country after gaining 401.3 yards per game and scoring 37.1 points each week (34th). Arizona had two running backs carry the ball 100 times averaging over 4.5 yards per carry.
Defense: The Wildcats defense was stout against the pass, allowing only 169.8 yards per game (14th) and was above average against the run allowing 132.3 yards per game (42nd). Their squad allowed just over 300 yards of offense per game ranking them 20th in the country. They allowed 21.3 points per game to rank 42nd in scoring allowed.
Special Teams: Arizona had great luck on punt returns averaging 14.29 yards per return and returning two for touchdowns. Their kick return average was 19.05 yards which is far from great. Their coverage is decent on kickoffs (20.1 yards per return ranking 43rd) but they allow 11 yards per punt return to rank 90th.
Match Up: This is a great match up pairing the 14th pass defense in the nation against the 7th passing offense. BYU will still put up some yards, but Arizona head coach Mike Stoops will have his defense ready. Arizona should win the field position battle against the Cougars’ below average punt coverage. In their three common opponent games, both teams beat UCLA (BYU by 59, Arizona by 21) and Washington (BYU by 1, Arizona by 34), but BYU beat New Mexico 21-3 about a month after New Mexico beat Arizona 36-28. In the end, the Cougars’ explosive offense will be too much for the Wildcats to handle in what will become a high scoring event.
Prediction: BYU 45 – Arizona 38