Free Expert NCAA Football Picks: USC Trojans at Utah Utes Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 10/23/2014
USC Trojans at Utah Utes, Saturday Oct.25, 10 p.m. ET
College football is a strange sport. Heading into the season this game would have been very easy to overlook. It seemed completely meaningless. UCLA has collapsed, though, so the South Division of the Pac-12 is totally wide open. Four teams have just one loss so far - and these are two of them. This isn't an eliminator game, but the winner will definitely be in much better shape heading into the rest of the season than the loser. Football at Utah in October matters. Who would have guessed?
USC at Utah Betting Storylines
Utah comes into this game mostly playing well, but one thing is far from ideal - they don't have a quarterback. Both Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson have started games, but neither has taken over the position for the long term. Wilson is starting this game, but it is a good bet that Thompson will play. As the saying goes, when you have two starting quarterbacks you might as well have none. The lack of a clear-cut starter is far from ideal here, but then again it was the reality when they beat UCLA, too.
The Utes have big wins at Michigan - a slaughter - and UCLA. They also lost at home to Washington State. That, of course, doesn't make any sense. One thing we can take from it, though, is that they get up for big games better than regular ones. The Trojans now aren't what they used to be, but they are a contender again and a wildly-public team to boot, so motivation should not be in short supply for the Utes. Besides, it's not like the Trojans have been any more logical on the road. They have nice wins at Stanford and Arizona - though both were very close - but they somehow lost at a Boston College team that just isn't very good.
Part of what cost the Trojans at Boston College was that they couldn't protect the quarterback. Cody Kessler was sacked five times and hurried countless others. He still threw four touchdowns without an interception, so the day was far from a disaster, but he should have been able to do much more against a BC defense that doesn't exactly overwhelm - and the Trojans would have won easily, as they should have, if he had. Kessler is coming off an incredible seven-touchdown outing at Colorado last week in which he averaged an incredible 12.3 yards per attempt, so he will be confident. It will be tough to maintain that momentum without protection, though, and Utah's 33 sacks are tops in the country. The Utes have been very aggressive on defense all year - just ask Brett Hundley - and you can be sure they are really going to dial up their efforts here to try to fluster Kessler. This is unquestionably a showdown to watch.
For all the attention that special teams get, it's rare that a team can reliably be strong enough on special teams to give them a real edge. The Utes are one of those teams, though. Kaelin Clay has already returned four kicks for touchdowns. He's hard to avoid kicking to, and the Trojans have been vulnerable all year to big kick returns, so this could be a problem for the Utes. Kicker Andy Phillips also leads the Pac-12 with 10.8 points per game, so in a close game he's a big asset.
USC Trojans at Utah Utes NCAA Football Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with the Trojans favored by just a single point on the road, and it has stayed stable at that level despite about two-thirds of bets being on the visitors. Barring a development, it isn't likely to change significantly. The total sits at 56.
The teams have played three years straight, with USC having three wins and two covers to show for their efforts. The "under" is 8-1-1 in USC's last 10 against teams with winning records. Utah is 5-0 ATS in their last five against teams with winning records.
USC Trojans at Utah Utes Expert Predictions and Picks
I've gone back and forth on this one - a good indication that there isn't a lot of value here in my eyes. In the end, though, I have to land on the Utes. Playing at home is a big advantage for them, and their pass rush gives them a good chance to limit the effectiveness of Kessler. Their QB situation is a concern, but both guys have had flashes of brilliance. I have been impressed by the ability of the Utes to find a way to win when they need to this year, and they will rely on that survival instinct again here. Six weeks ago it would have been impossible to imagine picking the Utes to win this one outright, yet now that's just what I am doing.
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