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BYU vs. Utah: Odds, betting lines and computer predictions for the Holy War

Let’s look at data from Las Vegas and several computer predictors to get a hopefully accurate preview for BYU’s rivalry showdown against Utah

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NCAA Football: Las Vegas Bowl-Brigham Young vs Utah Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

BYU is 1-1. That seems okay, but there have been some obvious problems. Namely, the offense simply doesn’t look good.

The Cougars opened as a favorite against Utah anyway, and Vegas successfully got money rolling in on the Utes because, well, that’s where I’d be putting my money if I had any.

Let’s take a look at what oddsmakers and computer predictions have to say about the matchup.

(This is, of course, for entertainment purposes only. While we don't encourage gambling, referencing predictions from the people who make money on them can be fun!)


Utah is favored by 2.5 points at most Vegas sportsbooks after BYU opened as an 1.5-point favorite. The over/under sits at 45.5 after opening at 47.5.

Vegas lines and odds aren't necessarily meant to predict, but to entice betting. However, combining the line and the over/under usually ends up close to some computer models. At the very least, it's fun.

Combining the line and the over/under, the Vegas combo has Utah winning 24-21.


Some computer rankings are designed to provide a built-in predictive element by comparing the ratings of two teams.

Some of the best ratings out there come from Football Outsiders. The most famous is Jeff Sagarin's for USA Today, previously used in the BCS computer rankings, but I've gathered a couple others from around the web as well.


F/+ is a combination of Bill Connelly's S&P+ and Brian Fremeau's FEI ratings. The ratings are usually pretty solid in factoring all the many variables involved in ranking college football teams that have a relatively low level of common opponents.

Football Outsiders site only lists the ratings in order, but Connelly posts predictions on SB Nation.

F/+ ratings have Utah ranked #38 and BYU at #48.

Bill’s prediction using his S&P+ as posted on SB Nation is Utah by 0.4 at 50.8% probability, ultimately picking BYU to win. His F/+ formula has BYU by 0.5 at 51.2%.


BYU is ranked #61 (-12) with a rating of 71.99

Utah is ranked #22 with a rating of 81.33.

Sagarin's formula currently values home field advantage as worth 2.41 points. So subtracting the difference between the ratings and adding home-field points, Sagarin has Utah by 7 (6.93).


Billingsley's ranking was also previously used by the BCS. With the BCS restriction to remove margin of victory no longer a consideration, Billingsley has created a version of his formula that accounts for MOV.

BYU is ranked #50 (-2) with a rating of 96.122.

Utah is ranked #35 with a rating of 97.771.

Billingsley’s numbers don’t typically factor in home-field advantage, so accounting for a standard three points at home, he has BYU by 1.5 (1.35)


Donchess boils down the ratings directly into digestible scores and probabilities, no math required.

It has BYU winning 26-25 at 51.6% probability.


Okay, so Sports-Reference doesn’t have a predictive component. But the previous one I had in this spot was never up to date, and S-R is a fantastic library of data and I want to give them some love.

Sports-Reference uses something it calls a Simple Ratings System (SRS). It describes SRS as “a rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule.” The rating is expressed in points above/below average, with zero being average.

Utah is currently ranked #34 with a rating of 21.00

BYU is currently ranked #40 with a rating of 14.00


There are a lot of computer ratings that aren't packaged with a predictive ability. There are also a ton of computer ratings, period. Kenneth Massey, whose ratings were also part of the old BCS computer formula, hosts on his site a composite ranking of what is currently 48 computer ratings across the internet.

In that composite, Utah ranks #27 and BYU ranks #56 (-19).

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I’m honestly surprised at how close these predictions are. Sagarin (Utah by 7) feels the most appropriate given what we’ve seen on the field. What do you think?