USC Trojans vs. Utah Utes Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

No. 13 Southern California Trojans (3-1 SU, 1-3 ATS) vs. Utah Utes (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS)
College Football Week 6
Date/Time: Thursday, October 4th, 2012/9:00 p.m. EST
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
by Badger, Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: USC -14/UU +14
Over/Under Total: 47.5

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The 13th-ranked USC Trojans will try and continue their climb back into the national title picture and re-stake their claim as the leaders in the PAC-12 South standings when they travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes in Rice-Eccles Stadium in late primetime college football action Thursday Night on ESPN.

For Southern Cal, it’s been 18 days since the pile they left at Stanford and 11 days since they rebounded with an easy win over California, 27-9, so this week has almost been like a reboot of the season for the Trojans. With both Arizona State and UCLA off to fast starts in the division, suddenly the Trojans need to find a way to stay focused on the PAC-12 South or fall victim to the over hype and expectations that always seem to follow the team from L.A.

Utah is also coming off a long 11-day layoff, but they’re trying to rebound from a crushing, 37-7, loss to Arizona State on the road in Tempe. Not much has gone right for Kyle Whittingham and the Utes in 2012: their starting QB quit after getting injured, they lost to in-state rival Utah State in week two, and they’ve crushed their solid defense after struggling to establish any offensive threat in recent weeks. All of this is a recipe for disaster if they can’t fix things quickly for USC on Thursday.

It looks like it’s going to be an uphill climb for Utah this week, considering that oddsmakers opened the point spread with USC as 13-point favorites on the road. Almost all of the early money has been on USC (go figure), so most sportsbooks are already showing minus -14 to try and balance the heavy money on Southern Cal.

There are a few online sportsbooks already listing a total for the game, with the over/under total opening at 47.5 at a few of the big sites.

Offensively this game looks so lopsided on paper, a double-digit point spread is warranted.

When Utah starter Jordan Wynn hung it up after a week two re-injury, quarterback Jon Hays (59 %, 467 yards) has been forced to lead the Utes instead. Hays is limited athletically, and the Utes don’t really have any “dangerous” weapons either because their leading runner (John White IV only 233 yards), leading receiver (Kenneth Scott only 6 catches, 134 yards) and leading scorer (TE Jake Murphy – 2 TD) all have less then inspiring stats through four games.

Those numbers are an average game for any of the USC starters, in fact I think QB Matt Barkley (over 1,000 yards already), RB Silas Redd (338 yards, 4 TD) and WRs Marqise Lee (457 yards, 6 TD) and Robert Woods (203, 4 TD) all HAVE had better days then the Utes have had season so far. Barkley is also trying to get back into the Heisman race and regain some of his NFL draft status, so there’s hidden motivation for the Trojans to blow out the Utes on Thursday night if they can.

Utah’s defense will have to show up, something they didn’t do at Arizona State last time out, falling behind 21 points before the first quarter ended and the tailgaters in the parking lot even sat down. Utah is 30th in the FBS in yards allowed (330 ypg), but they haven’t faced talent anything close to what USC will have on Thursday and their weakness in the secondary (218 ypg – 52nd) could be easily exposed by Barkley and his crew.

Last year the Utes almost sprung an upset in the game played in L.A., losing to USC, 23-14, in a game that was much closer than the score shows. Utah was driving for a game-tying field goal in the closing seconds, when USC blocked it and returned it for a touchdown and a more lopsided score and a huge backdoor cover for USC fans (as 7.5-point favorites).

The last time the Trojans played in Utah, back in 1993, they won by a score of 28-21 with Utah covering as 17-point home underdogs. All told Utah is 1-2 SU against USC, but 2-1 ATS. All three games have gone under the total too, including last year when it closed at 51.

USC is 5-1 ATS in their last six PAC-12 games, 5-2 ATS on Thursday and 13-5 ATS coming off a bye week. While Utah is a terrible 0-3-1 ATS in their last four “feature” games on Thursday night and 5-12 ATS vs. the PAC-12 lately, they are 8-3 ATS following a bye week.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think USC is going to walk in this game, but any wager on them now has already lost its value with the number climbing. Utah might be a great first quarter or first half pick (see your book for odds), but I think the Trojans will wear them down in the second half. I’ll probably stay away from the game, but if you need a side to play on Thursday I think USC minus the points will cover at the end.

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