#10 Utah Utes (3-0) at USC Trojans (2-1)
NCAA Football: Friday, September 20th, 2019 at 9:00 pm ET (Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum)
Line and Odds: Utah Utes -3.5 Over/Under: 53.5
Free ESPN NCAA Football Picks USC Trojans vs. Utah Utes
The Utah Utes entered the season as potential winners of the Pac-12 and dark horse national championship contenders. Through the first 3 games of their season, they have been impressive. It hasn’t been the most daunting schedule (BYU, Northern Illinois, and Idaho State), but they have played at a pretty high level. Utah moved up 1 spot in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, from #11 to #10 with their 31-0 win over the Idaho State Bengals. Utah overwhelmed Idaho State early, with five 45+ yard drives to open the game. Their first 4 drives resulted in a field goal and 3 touchdowns. Utah drove to the Idaho State 1 in their 5th drive, but failed to get any points out of it. On 4th and 1 at the ISU 1, QB Tyler Huntley mishandled the snap and Utah was stopped for a turnover on downs. It is one of the few mistakes Huntley has made all season. Huntley leads the Pac-12 in yards per pass attempt (11.1) and 2nd in passing efficiency (195.86). Utah has given up just 1 turnover and 1 sack in their first 3 games. All in all, Utah would prefer to lean on their running game. Utah RB Zack Moss ranks 8th nationally in rush yards per game, averaging 124.3 yards per outing. Utah’s passing game has been efficient, but their running game is the staple of the Utes offense.
Utah’s defense has been one of the best in the country through 3 games. The Utes defense ranks 6th in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing 9.7 points per game. They also rank 8th in total defense, allowing 239.3 yards per game. Utah defense smothered Idaho State’s offense, allowing just 9 first downs on the day. Thus far, Utah has given up just 12.3 first downs per game. Idaho State totaled just 116 yards in the entire game. The Bengals averaged 3.5 yards per pass (80 total pass yards) and 1.4 yards per rush (36 total rush yards). Senior defensive lineman Bradlee Anae is tied for the Pac-12 lead in sacks with 3.0. Senior defensive back Julian Blackmon has 2 interceptions, which ties for 3rd-best in the Pac-12. While it’s legitimate to question the quality of offensive opposition, the Utah defense did a much better job against BYU’s offense than USC did. Utah held BYU to 12 points and 300 total yards, while forcing 3 turnovers.
The USC Trojans’ 2019 season has already been a bit of a roller coaster. It began with an underwhelming 31-23 victory over Fresno State. While USC dominated the first 3 quarters, Fresno State was able to cut the game close late. Fresno St. scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and had the ball at the USC 15 with 1:45 left, down 8 points. Sophomore safety Isaiah Pola-Mao was able to get an interception in the end zone to secure the win. The most troubling part of the game was the loss of QB J.T. Daniels. The highly-touted sophomore QB was ruled out for the rest of the season after tearing his ACL and meniscus. USC’s freshman backup QB Kedon Slovis will have to lead USC for the duration of the year.
The next game was a home tilt with in-state rival Stanford. To the surprise of many, Slovis was spectacular in a 42-20 USC win. Slovis went 28 of 33 for 377 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. He averaged 11.4 yards per attempt and had a 91.8 QBR. USC outgained the Cardinal 492 to 335 yards. USC gained 115 yards on the ground for a rate of 4.1 yards per carry. The Trojans defense held Stanford’s backup QB Davis Mills to 237 yards passing on 36 attempts. It allowed USC to get off to a 1-0 conference head-start and put them #24 in the AP Poll. A few days later, USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann resigned from his position. This put head coach Clay Helton in a precarious position because there have been grumblings about his job security for the past couple of years. Much of the goodwill created by the Stanford win, would evaporate after the loss to BYU.
USC lost 30-27 in overtime at BYU in their most recent contest. It could be argued that USC outplayed BYU, having slight edges in yards, first downs, and time of possession. However, USC lost the turnover battle 3 to 0. USC’s QB threw 3 interceptions, while BYU’s QB, Zach Wilson, threw 0. USC may have fallen out of the top 25, but they still have that early lead in the Pac-12 South. A win over Utah would put them in great position against their chief Pac-12 South competitor. A loss would heat up Helton’s seat even more before back to back road games at Washington and at Notre Dame.
Cover The Spread 365 Betting Trends
Utah is 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games.
Utah is 10-3 SU in their last 13 games.
Utah is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games against USC.
USC is 5-13 ATS in their last 18 games.
The total has gone OVER in 4 of USC’s last 5 games against Utah.
USC is 17-3 SU in their last 20 games at home.
ESPN NCAA Football Scores Utah Utes vs. USC Trojans
I’m taking the USC Trojans +3.5 in this matchup. I do not see much of a drop off from J.T. Daniels to Kedon Slovis. While the turnovers against BYU are a concern, I think those are simply growing pains of a young QB. Slovis’ QBR of 77 in his first 2 games is actually higher than Daniels’ career QBR. If Slovis doesn’t throw those interceptions against BYU, USC would have won that game going away. Slovis will more closely resemble the QB who beat Stanford than the one who lost to BYU. Utah has looked strong this season, but they’ve been able to overwhelm their opponents from a talent perspective. Overall, I believe USC is more talented than Utah. Huntley has been quite efficient this season, but no one has been able to make him uncomfortable. USC has the ability to slow down Zack Moss and force Huntley into tough passing situations. I’ll take the more talented team at home, getting points. I expect USC to win this one outright.