USC vs. Utah: College football betting, odds and analysis
Inconsistency has been the theme of college football across the country this season, and USC has been swept up in that wave as well. After an embarrassing loss to Oregon State in Week 4, the Trojans looked like a totally different team in Week 5 and rolled over Colorado, 37-14.
USC now draws a Utah team that has underwhelmed and underperformed this season, but has also had a lot to contend with on and off the field. This is a tough handicap, as the Trojans have also dealt with the firing of Clay Helton and their up-and-down season.
Will USC break the string of alternating wins and losses and put together a second consecutive good game?
Utah Utes at USC Trojans (-3, 52.5)
Between the lines, this season hadn’t started out as expected for Utah. Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer failed to perform up to expectations and then transferred out of the program, leaving Cameron Rising as the starting QB. This will be something of a homecoming for Rising, a Newbury Park High product who originally signed with Texas. USC never made him an official offer. This game will mean a lot to him.
The Utes lost to BYU and also San Diego State on the road before opening conference play with a win over Washington State. The joy of that victory didn’t last long because sophomore defensive back Aaron Lowe was shot and killed at a postgame party that night. Utah just returned to practice with heavy hearts Monday after the bye week.
Utah’s traditionally stout defense has been good again, holding opponents to 4.37 yards per play, but the offense has been bad on third down, which puts pressure on the defense. The Utes are 116th in the nation on third down. USC is 24th. For all of USC’s defensive warts, the Trojans have still had a more successful third-down defense than Utah.
Kedon Slovis looked a lot more comfortable against Colorado two weeks removed from the injury that knocked him out against Washington State. He gets to face a Utah secondary that lost three safeties in the game against the Cougars before the bye. The improvements of the USC running game have also been huge, as Keaontay Ingram and Darwin Barlow have been very efficient.
After a nagging calf injury kept him sidelined for three seasons, Jake Lichtenstein contemplated walking away from football. Now he’s peaking for USC.
Money has hit Utah this week, as coach Kyle Whittingham is outstanding off of extra rest, covering the spread by an average of 7.1 points per game in the last 15 seasons. The Utes have a coaching advantage here. They’ve also been on the wrong side of luck and variance this season and have played better than their 2-2 record would indicate.
This is a really tricky handicap. Utah could rally and play a strong game. USC could continue to dominate third down and run a lot more plays than the Utes. Rising could struggle in his third career start, much like he did in his second against Wazzu. The Trojans and Slovis could struggle against the best defense they will have seen to date.
A slight lean here to Utah with the coaching advantage, but this might be a week to stay on the sidelines for a USC game.
Pick: Utah Utes +3
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