Free Expert NCAA Football Picks: Utah Utes at Oregon State Beavers Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 10/15/2014
Utah Utes at Oregon State Beavers, Thursday Oct. 16, 10 p.m. ET
If you had tried to convince me heading into this season that this game was going to be anything other than completely irrelevant, I would have just laughed. Yet here we are. The Utes have two big wins to their credit and are ranked 20th. Both teams are 4-1. They both have a conference loss already - and both are to regrettable opponents - but the Pac-12 is such a mess right now that two losses could be enough to win a division as things are playing out. Don't mistake this game for a preview of the Pac-12 Championship or anything, but it's a whole lot more interesting than we had any right to expect it to be.
This is a Pac-12 game that we are talking about, so we really don't have to handicap it before making a pick. Not this year. There have been 18 games played in the conference so far this season, and the road team has come out on top 14 times. That just shouldn't be possible - not in a deep conference like this.
Utah Utes at Oregon State Beavers Betting Storylines
Despite their success, Utah is likely going to have a new man in charge this time around. Quarterback Kendal Thompson, who joined the Utes this year after transferring from Oklahoma, took over during the UCLA game after starter Travis Wilson was ineffective. He was perhaps the biggest reason that Utah pulled off that upset, and he deserves the chance to start this game. He has not been named starter yet, but it seems likely - and Oregon State coach Mike Riley has openly said he is preparing for Thompson. The offense is more dynamic when Thompson is in charge, though his lack of experience with the offense could be a concern if Oregon State is able to maintain aggressiveness. The Beavers have allowed just four passing touchdowns and less than 200 passing yards per game.
Last year Sean Mannion was one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12, and that's saying something given how deep that position is in the league. It seemed reasonable that he would take a big step forward this year as a very experienced senior, but so far that has not been the case. In five starts he has just five touchdowns and four picks, and his accuracy isn't what it was last year. Sooner or later you have to expect he will uncork a game more reminiscent of what he showed so often last year. To do so here, though, he'll have to get a strong day from his offensive line. Utah's front seven is coming off an epic day, having sacked UCLA pivot Brett Hundley 10 times, and it pressured him countless more. That's a dangerous group, but Oregon State's offensive line is dramatically better than UCLA's. Heck, there aren't many teams - at any level of the sport - that don't have a dramatically better offensive line than the Bruins. When the two teams met last year - a 51-48 Oregon State overtime win that will hardly go down in history as a defensive classic - Mannion threw for 443 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. In other words, despite his struggles this year he should have no shortage of confidence coming into this one.
Utah Utes at Oregon State Beavers Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Oregon State favored by a single point, and that spread has since jumped up to 2.5 points. About two-thirds of bets have been placed on Utah, so the line movement makes sense. The movement is not significant unless it moves through the key number of three, and the closer we get to the game the less likely that seems. The total opened at 54.5 and has fallen to 53.5 in early action.
The Utes are 4-0 ATS in their last four against teams with winning records. Utah is 1-4 ATS in their last five games against Oregon State. The Beavers have gone "under" the total in five of their last six home games.
Utah Utes at Oregon State Beavers Predictions and Picks
Oregon State's only decent opponent so far has been USC, and they lost by 25. Utah, meanwhile has won their two biggest games - though you can argue about how good UCLA and especially Michigan really are. Utah is a deeper team, and their offense has been more productive this year. Oregon State's defense looks better than it likely is because of the quality of their opposition. Utah has had one lapse in concentration already this year when they lost to Washington State, and they will have learned from that. Combine the determination to avoid another embarrassment with a week off to get ready for this one, and Utah is going to be able to assert their dominance here. The Utes are the pick.
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