California Golden Bears vs. Utah Utes Pick 10/26/19
California Golden Bears (4-3 SU, 3-3-1 ATS) vs. Utah Utes (6-1 SU, 4-3 ATS)
College Football Week 9
Date and Time: Saturday, October 26, 2019 at 10 PM EDT
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
Point Spread: CAL +19.5/UTAH -19.5 (WagerWeb)
Over/Under Total: 38.5
The California Golden Bears come to Salt Lake City for a Pac-12 showdown with the Utah Utes on Saturday. Last week, Cal hit rock-bottom, seeing a promising season further dissolve with their third straight loss last week—a 21-17 home loss to Oregon State. The team we saw that was ranked earlier in the season is a forgotten memory, and they face a daunting road-task this week. The Utes moved to 6-1 on Saturday with a 21-3 win over Arizona State and now are at home for the second week in a row. Looking good stop the Pac-12 South Division, Utah now looks to add another nugget to their resume.
Where Does Cal Go From Here?
It was looking so good. A strong defense looked even stronger, and QB Chase Garbers was coming around in this offense and getting a lot from his supporting cast. A shoulder injury against Arizona State sidelined him indefinitely, and the offense has never really recovered. When you’re at home putting up 17 points against Oregon State, it speaks volumes. They have scored a combined 41 points in the last three games, and the offense has really stalled out.
There is a personnel issue on the offensive side of the ball for Cal. Devon Modster is a good athlete, formerly seeing time behind center for UCLA. But he hasn’t cracked 50% completions since coming in for Garbers with just one TD against three picks. And the lack of continuity has hurt the offense, with even Modster listed as questionable this week. The run-game has been flat with Christopher Brown, Jr. And a talented receiver crew with Nikko Remigio, Jordan Duncan, and Kekoa Crawford (questionable) has been wasted with the lack of passing prowess at the QB position, though Modster does have some wheels. Against Utah on their field could be an untimely spot for this wayward offense to get their act together, especially if they now have to work in yet another quarterback.
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Can Cal Turn it Into a Defensive Battle?
The defense is now far and away the most promising part of this Cal team. They will be pushed against Utah, particularly on the ground. LB Evan Weaver is one of the best defensive players in the conference and a great asset. Having NT Luc Buquette up front will help, and having guys around Weaver in the middle like Kuony Deng goes a long way. They have a secondary that is both stout and has a “big play” component, to boot. To stay in this game, this side of the ball will need to be on-point. I see them doing well against the pass, but the run might be a more-dicey proposition.
Will the Utah Offense Turn Over?
We saw a more subdued performance from the Utah offense on Sunday, following big explosions the previous two games, as they scored a combined 90 against Washington State and Oregon State. They come into this with three straight conference wins, looking to build up a head of steam for a big run. Between dual-threat QB Tyler Huntley, Zack Moss, and some other guys chipping in, they can really run the heck out of the ball. Huntley has been very efficient, throwing his first interception of the season just last week, while completing 75% of his throws on the season. He did leave the game after looking hobbled following a big hit. He begged to return, but coach Whittingham kept him out. I would imagine he would be in there on Saturday, but it’s worth watching.
Moss, who set the Utah all-time rushing record last week against ASU, can also catch throws and with some other big-play receivers like Bryan Thompson, the Utes can throw a lot at the opponent. But against this Cal defense, will this be a game like what we saw last week where they struggled to hit the scoreboard for large stretches of the game? Or will we see things click better at home? A Utah point total somewhere in the teens or low-twenties makes it hard for the Utes to cover this number.
Will the Utah “D” Control This Game?
A big part of why the Utes have covered their last three spreads, the Utah defense can be a real monster. One of the best defenses against the run, they look to make things hard on a Cal rushing attack that has trouble firing under ideal conditions. In the three games they have played since suffering their only loss of the season to USC, the Utes have given up a combined 23 points. And this might be the weakest offense they’ve faced during that stretch. After watching them hold Washington State to 13 points and Arizona State to 3 points last week, the story sort of writes itself.
Against a quarterback like Devon Modster struggling aerially, Utah’s defense held ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels to 25 yards on 4-for-18 passing. And we’re talking against one of the higher-ranked rushing defenses in the nation. They make plays, are incredibly stout, and play physical football. Again, after watching Cal struggle at home against Oregon State to put up points, what kind of performance can be expected here on the road against the top “D” in the conference? But there we go trying to make sense of things in the Pac-12. Just last week as 11 point favorites, the Golden Bears lost by 4 to the Beavers and that barely qualifies as much at all in this conference, where making sense is often futile.
Take the Home Favorite
There seems to be many matchup components that shake out pretty badly for Cal in this one. Sure, their defense could keep this one respectful, but at some point, you’re going to need points if you want to make a run at covering the number. Further personnel issues at QB only paint Cal as a weaker force. Still trying to put some separation between them and their loss to USC, I don’t see Utah letting up in this spot. The Utes will get the separation they need at the end to squeak out the cover at home. I’m taking the Utes.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Utah Utes minus 19.5 points.
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