Utah Utes vs. USC Trojans Pick 9/20/19
Utah Utes (3-0 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. USC Trojans (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS)
College Football Week 4
Date and Time: Friday, September 20, 2019 at 9PM EDT
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, los Angeles, California
TV: Fox Sports One
Point Spread: UTAH -4/USC +4 (Betnow)
Over/Under Total: 55
The Utah Utes battle the USC Trojans in a big Pac-12 battle in LA on Friday. The Utes, who just secured a top-ten ranking in the AP poll, are opening up their conference schedule. They face a tough road game; albeit against a team, they beat 41-28 last season. At 3-0, they look strong and how strong they can become may reveal itself in this game. The Trojans dropped their first game of the season last week, but after already smashing Stanford in week two, they look to bolster their conference credentials in a big way this week.
Tough Times for Southern Cal
The overall morale of a team is worth something in this business. And there is enough food-for-thought to give one pause when considering backing the Trojans. They lost their QB to a bad injury. Head coach Clay Helton, already on the hot-seat, is even more so now after falling to BYU to last week, a team Utah easily handled already this season. His beleaguered expression on the sideline as things inevitably go south has become a staple. AD Lynn Swann retired suddenly last week. And then in overtime, for an interception to end things on Saturday was a bitter pill to swallow. For all their issues, they could easily be 3-0 and at least have that going for them.
What Happens Now
If USC can put the tough loss last week behind them; they still have in which to be thankful for. Despite throwing three picks last week and the most untimely one, true freshman Kedon Slovis has shown some aptitude in working with this Trojans’ offense. And when all else is failing, you can usually bank on some big-time offensive talent on the Trojans’ roster. They have a viable 1-2 punch at running back with Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai (questionable), who have run for a combined six touchdowns already this season. For a guy throwing so many picks, Slovis has been very accurate, with a 77.3% completion percentage. With 377 yards against Stanford and 281 yards against BYU, he has shown he can connect with valuable weaponry like Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman, Jr., and Amon-Ra St. Brown. This is not an offense that can be neglected because when the line plays a little better, mistakes are reduced, and the defense does their share of the lifting, this group could be pretty good.
The State of the Utes
Utah certainly looks strong on both sides of the ball. They are great on the line-of-scrimmage, with abundant talent on both sides of the ball. On defense, they’ve allowed a combined 29 points in three games. Meanwhile, on offense, they operate efficiently behind a strong run-game with a senior dual-threat quarterback who has really come into his own. Then again, making it all work against an off-key week one BYU team, and then Northern Illinois and Idaho State doesn’t prove a whole lot. As they open their conference schedule this week, we should have a better idea of where this Utes team really stands.
Matchup Advantages for the Utah Offense
We’ve seen a mixed bag from the USC defense this season. There have been spots where they have been clutch, with some late resistance in week one against Fresno State, holding Stanford to 20 points the following week, and even in keeping BYU to an overtime field goal, before the offense blew it. At the same time, they also have given up a lot of big plays on the ground and through the air. They look leaky, and you can get still see them getting tired on prolonged drives. There are some things Utah does that could exploit that.
Against this defense last season, star Utah players QB Tyler Huntley and RB Zack Moss both had monster games. Huntley was 22-29 with 341 yards and 4 TDs, while Moss ran for 140 yards. There are a lot of areas in the USC defense to exploit, and Utah is able to do all of it. And Huntley looks awfully-sharp through three games with 77.8% passes completed, with Moss already peeling off some big runs. With Huntley also getting it done with his legs, the run-game has a few different dimensions. Look for Huntley to be looking for Bryan Thompson and Brant Kuithe as he looks for more out of the aerial attack this week against a USC defense that hasn’t appeared to find its legs yet.
USC seems more-likely to enter this spot in a less-refreshed state-of-being. They have already been in a few battles this season and morale can’t be high after losing in overtime to BYU in a game that seemed winnable after hitting a 52-yard field goal to tie it late. To cough it away and now have to turn around and face Utah is daunting. The Utes, meanwhile, had it pretty easy this season thus far and last week had it cushy against Idaho State, allowing them to enter this game better-rested mentally and physically.
Lay the Points on the Road Favorite
This won’t be easy for the Utes in the City of Angels. Utah hasn’t been tested, and this could prove to be a little bit of a jump in intensity from what they’ve seen so far in 2019. But even if you think of Utah being in the top-ten qualifies as a hopeful appraisal, it’s clear they’re the more-intact football team. They’re not dealing with issues that reduce their morale, they are not trying to patch up catastrophic injuries, and are just more-likely to manifest into the better version of themselves than USC is. I see Utah getting out of the Coliseum with the win and cover on Friday.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Utah Utes minus 4 points.
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