Southern Utah Thunderbirds (0-0) at Utah Utes (0-0)
|Date & Time||Thursday September 1, 2016, 8:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Utah Utes -27 -- Over/Under:
The Southern Utah Thunderbirds and Utah Utes open the season Thursday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Southern Utah Thunderbirds begin a new era under first-year head coach and former defensive coordinator Demario Warren. Tannon Pedersen takes over at quarterback after throwing just three passes last season. Mike Sharp and Brady Measom return at wide receiver after combining for more than 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns while Steven Wroblewski had 36 receptions. The Southern Utah Thunderbirds ground game averaged 165 yards per contest last season and Malik Brown returns after racking up 829 yards and eight touchdowns. Defensively, Southern Utah allowed 20.8 points and 390 yards per game. Mike Needham returns after 94 tackles, Chance Bearnson had 3.5 sacks and Kyle Hannemann had four interceptions.
The Utah Utes look for another strong start after winning 10 games last season. Brandon Cox takes over at quarterback after throwing just three passes for his career. Tyrone Smith and Siale Fakailoatonga return at wide receiver after combining for more than 400 yards on 40 receptions while Raelon Singleton had six receptions. The Utah Utes ground game averaged 183 yards per contest last season and Joe Williams returns after racking up 477 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, Utah allowed 22.3 points and 366 yards per game. Marcus Williams returns after 66 tackles, Kylie Fitts had seven sacks and Dominique Hatfield had four interceptions.
Utah has a lot of players to replace, include its workhorse on offense in Devontae Booker. It may take some time before the Utes get rolling again. Meanwhile, Southern Utah held its own on the road last year against Utah State, losing by just three points. The Thunderbirds are decent defensively and will be confident after winning three of their last five road games.
I'll take a stab with the points here even if I don't love the line.