Thursday College Football Picks: USC at Utah Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 10/2/2012
NFL bettors no doubt remember well the recent “Monday Night Football” game in Seattle between the Seahawks and Packers in which a horrid call by the replacement officials gave Seattle the win on a last-second Hail Mary that was clearly intercepted and not a TD. (So far I love the term “Fail Mary” for that play) That call did two things: It was the impetus for the NFL and the officials’ union to agree to a new contract and get the normal refs back for Week 4. And it also turned a Green Bay cover into a loss for Packers backers. Some books did refund money.
Something a little similar happened last year when Utah visited Southern Cal in the first-ever Pac-12 game for the Utes. Long story short, the Trojans closed as eight-point favorites at most books. Utah was down 17-14 but lining up for a 41-yard field goal on the final play of the game to send it into overtime. Instead, it was blocked by USC’s Matt Kalil and returned for an apparent 68-yard touchdown by Torrin Harris. That would have made the final score 23-14 and allowed USC to cover.
However, officials called an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on the Trojans when the bench emptied and ran on the field to celebrate and mob Harris. Thus, the touchdown wasn’t credited and Utah covered in the 17-14 loss. But a few hours later, Pac-12 officials said the touchdown did count because “All unsportsmanlike conduct fouls by substitutes (on the bench) are enforced as dead ball fouls. Since the game was over, the penalty could not be enforced, and the referee stated it was declined by rule.” Final score: USC 23, Utah 14 and books were put between a rock and a hard place for those who bet on the Utes. Many did rule it “no action” and returned bets.
USC at Utah Betting Storylines
The Utah crowd will be jacked to see Southern Cal as the Trojans play in Salt Lake City for the first time since 1917. When tickets were originally put up for sale for the game, it sold out in minutes (In its history, USC has had only three lettermen from Utah).
It lost a little luster when USC dropped from No. 2 with its upset 21-14 loss at Stanford on Sept. 14. Southern Cal bounced back with a 27-9 win over Cal on Sept. 22, but the offense still seems to be a bit off. Matt Barkley has dropped down in the Heisman race, completing 42-of-78 passes for 442 yards, two scores and four picks in the past two games. The running game at least showed up vs. Cal with 296 yards. Against Stanford, USC rushed for 26 yards on 28 carries. Despite future NFL players at every skill position, USC ranks just sixth in the Pac-12 in total offense.
Utah had hopes of contending in the Pac-12 South this year but hasn’t looked great. Starting QB Jordan Wynn quit football after a Week 2 injury, and the Utes were dominated on Sept. 22 in losing 37-7 at Arizona State. John White, one of the nation’s top rushers a season ago, was held to 18 yards on 14 carries vs. the Sun Devils. New starting QB Jon Hays has yet to throw for 200 yards in a game. The Utes have given up 11 sacks behind an inexperienced offensive line, while USC already has 16 sacks, so look for Hays to be under major pressure.
Due to injuries this week, the Utes will be starting redshirt freshman Siaosi Aiono at right guard. Utah’s offense ranks 112th nationally, averaging 298.25 yards per game, and is last in the Pac-12 in total and passing offense. Defensively, Utah was down two starters to injury vs. ASU: free safety Eric Rowe and defensive end Joe Kruger. Both are expected back Thursday.
Utah does have the nation’s top defensive tackle in Star Lotulelei, a potential No. 1 overall NFL pick next April, and he could cause major havoc by himself, especially if Trojans starting center Khaled Holmes is out. That USC offensive line was overmatched vs. Stanford when Holmes sat with an injury. Holmes re-injured that ankle in the fourth quarter vs. Cal and he’s considered questionable.
USC at Utah Betting Odds and Trends
The Trojans are 5-1 ATS in their past six Pac-12 games. They have covered nine of their past 13 road games. Utah is 4-0 ATS in its past four after a loss. But Utes are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 home games as well as their past 10 overall vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-1 in USC’s past five conference games. The under is 6-2 in Utah’s past eight home games.
USC at Utah Predictions and Football Picks
It’s hard to know what to make of USC considering none of the teams USC has defeated — Hawaii, Syracuse and Cal — has won a game against an FBS opponent yet. But I also don’t see a way Utah scores many points here. The Utes are 8-8 under Kyle Whittingham vs. ranked teams and did beat one this year already in BYU (which is not ranked any longer). Whittingham is 6-1 coming off byes.
I do think Utah’s defense can give the Trojans some problems. This is one of those half-point games again: I like Utah at +14.5 but not at 13.5. Some books do have it at 13.5 currently (WagerWeb and 5Dimes, for example). Thus I would hold off until closer to game time to make your decision – but definitely take the under.
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