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Utah Utes vs. USC Trojans Preview

Utah Utes (4-1 SU, 4-0-1 ATS) vs. USC Trojans (5-1 SU, 1-5 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date/Time: Saturday, October 14, 2017 at 8PM EST
Where: Los Angeles Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
TV: ABC
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: UT +13/Southern Cal -13
Over/Under Total: 54.5

On Saturday in Pac-12 action, the Utah Utes come to the Coliseum in Los Angeles to face the USC Trojans. Utah was rolling along nicely until suffering their first loss of the season last week in a 23-20 loss to Stanford. They look to rebound with a big win this week. While USC has commanded most of the attention, Utah has been solid at the betting windows, having not failed to cover a spread yet this season. The Trojans have only covered the spread once. Last week, they beat Oregon State, 38-10, which at least put some distance between them and that hard-fought loss to Washington State the previous week. The Trojans look to make a statement this Saturday at home.

Southern California is back home after playing two straight road games. They've been a little strange this season and a lot of things aren't clicking as well as some may have thought considering how they finished the season last year. It hasn't cost them against easier opposition, but against the Cougars, it really manifested. While their 38-10 win over Oregon State looks decent on paper, they didn't cover the spread. They should get a good test this week against a capable Utah team that usually matches up pretty well with the Trojans. And in all fairness to Southern Cal, they have been riddled with injuries on both sides of the ball.

Sam Darnold is certainly a tremendous talent. He has a flair for the dramatic and is able to create when things look bad. He'd deadly on the move and can really bring a lot out of the playmakers around him. He threw for over 300 yards again on Saturday, but turnovers have been happening with alarming frequency, as he coughed up a fumble and threw yet another pick. He connected in the end zone again with Deontay Burnett, who is questionable for this game. He also connects well when young playmakers come in for injured more-established parts of the offense. The line helped Darnold operate cleanly for the most part, but we'll see how they perform this week facing a more-difficult defense. They also opened up holes for the run-game, with Ronald Jones, II. getting some good work. They look forward to the return of RB Stephen Carr, who helps the run-game and gives the whole offense a little spark.

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When the Trojans defense is playing well, they can be a contributing part of the overall USC team effort. They can also be a detriment when they are not at their best. We've seen both this season. They can make game-changing plays, with guys like Christian Rector up front, and Jack Jones in the secondary with his 4 picks. In other games, namely the Washington State loss, they haven't been very resolute late in close games. They are exploitable, a "D" capable of changing a game for better or worse. The secondary has been leaky and it stands out more in tandem with an offense that hasn't hit its zenith yet.

A loss in-conference is perhaps less devastating for a team like Utah than it is for USC. They came up short to Stanford, but remain in good standing in the south division in the Pac-12 and could add a lot to their morale with a win here. Two of the last three seasons, they have beaten USC, as their defense-heavy approach and chip-away mentality of offense has meshed well with the Trojans. Last season, they beat them 31-27, but this will be their first encounter with a cemented Sam Darnold, so we'll see how they fare. It's a tough spot against a USC bunch that is in atonement-mode and will be looking to make a splash back at home.

Losing Tyler Huntley at quarterback was a bad blow for Utah, with all due respect to former and now-current starter Troy Williams. He doesn't match the overall playmaking ability of Huntley and the offense is more-subdued as a result, likely the difference in the narrow loss to Stanford. Williams threw two picks against the Cardinal. They can run the ball and have different weapons in Zack Moss and Devona'e Henry-Cole. Receivers Raelon Singleton and Troy McCormick remain key aerial weapons, but the addition of Darren Carrington has really given this offense a boost.

Utah prides itself on the defense. Against Stanford, everything was in order until late in the game. Stanford's Bryce Love did eventually break through, though the Utes "D" was doing well keeping him quiet, while also grounding the Stanford aerial game. This defense has been pretty solid in all their games this season. They'll give up points here and there, but it's not easy to really do massive damage against this group. They're solid all-around and their secondary and pass-rush could be an impactful part of this game.

We keep waiting to see the USC machine kick into overdrive. Back at home and needing to start making some noise, this could be a good week for the Trojans. Utah really hasn't beaten anyone all that good this season, though their close loss to Stanford showed they need to be respected in this context, not to mention how well they have matched up with USC the last several seasons. I'm taking Utah and the points.

Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Utah Utes plus 13 points. Bet this game for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $1000 at MyBookie!

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