USC vs. Utah Odds, Picks: College Football Pac-12 Betting Preview
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Utah quarterback Cam Rising.
- No. 20 Utah hosts No. 7 USC in a top-20 Pac-12 affair on Saturday evening.
- Cameron Rising and Caleb Williams will go head-to-head in an elite quarterback duel.
- Collin Wilson previews the game and offers up his best bet.
USC vs. Utah Odds
A titanic showdown from a Power Five conference in the middle of a College Football Playoff drought will kick from Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday night.
If Utah loses, it all but seals any chance of it making the Pac-12 Championship after taking a loss to undefeated UCLA in Week 6. With the exception of Oregon, the Utes don't have any highly-ranked teams on the schedule to beat and claim as a tiebreaker in the division-less conference.
Meanwhile, USC is still marching toward the postseason, remaining undefeated despite a scare from Oregon State.
A rash of injuries to Washington State allowed the Trojans to roll in the Coliseum. The gravy train of turnovers has slowed, as USC posted its first turnover of the season against the Cougars. However, it still comes in at +14 in turnover margin after completing half of its schedule.
With UCLA and Oregon still undefeated in conference play — and the Ducks not on the schedule — a win in Salt Lake City is crucial for the Trojans to keep pace in the conference.
The old adage "defense wins championships" can be changed to "money buys offensive weapons," as Lincoln Riley continues to come under fire during the rise of USC and the fall of Oklahoma.
Quarterback Caleb Williams is a true contender for the Heisman Trophy, as an undefeated season would plant him next to Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud during the trophy presentation.
The advanced numbers disagree with the sentiment, as nearly two-dozen quarterbacks have thrown for more yards, while PFF grades Williams the 38th-best signal-caller.
Caleb Williams is absurd. Absolutely ridiculous throw on the move. pic.twitter.com/XCzd6X1QVO
— Jared Feinberg (@JRodNFLDraft) October 8, 2022
Outside of the highlight-reel plays is a pesky big-time throw rate that has been chopped by more than half of what he recorded at Oklahoma last season. Williams has thrown just one more big-time throw than turnover-worthy play despite his gaudy touchdown-to-interception ratio.
The good news for the USC faithful is its corps of hard-nosed running backs have taken the hit to defenders. Travis Dye has posted a dozen explosive runs, while Austin Jones averages more than four yards after contact.
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has certainly seen his share of struggles on the defensive side. USC ranks outside the top 100 in Success Rate with a rank toward the bottom half of FBS in Stuff Rate and Line Yards. Only eight other defenses have allowed more 20-yard runs than USC.
Washington State lost starter Nakia Watson to injury, paving the way for backup Jaylen Jenkins to dice the Trojans up for 130 yards on just 13 carries.
While USC's coverage and Havoc have improved since the arrival of Riley and Grinch, the run defense has allowed every offense to dominate in standard downs.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham saw the wheels come off in a trip to Pasadena las week, resulting in a 10-point loss to the Bruins.
Passing downs failed the offense, as it posted a lowly 28% Success Rate. That was the difference against a UCLA team led by Dorian Thompson-Robinson that generated a 61% Success Rate in passing downs. The performance was uncharacteristic for the Utes, who rank top-35 in third-down conversions on both sides of the ball.
Whittingham cited the Bruins' physicality, calling UCLA the most physical team that has ever been in the Pac-12.
Poor fundamentals played a role, as Utah has now missed 31 tackles in losses against Florida and UCLA. The Utes have not generated enough pressure and have recorded less than two sacks per game.
Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley is expected to send more pressure against USC's offensive line after relying on a four-man front that ranks 108th in pass rush.
Tavion Thomas right up the middle for the TD 💪@Utah_Football takes one right back
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 8, 2022
Tavion Thomas' return signifies Utah once again becoming an elite rushing offense. The fourth-year back had just 18 carries as he builds his workload after injury, generating three runs over 10 yards while averaging 4.1 yards after contact.
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is tasked not only with creating a bigger role for Thomas, but finding Dalton Kincaid more targets in the passing game. The loss of Brant Kuithe has upped Kincaid's usage at the tight end position.
Utah is not an explosive offense, as Money Parks has been the only explosive wide receiver in terms of yards per route run. Quarterback Cam Rising does run one of the most methodical units in the nation, ranking sixth in standard downs rate with a top-15 Success Rate.
The Utes are one of the best teams in the nation at achieving first downs through the running game, but the UCLA defense put the blueprint together by forcing low-probability passing downs.
USC vs. Utah Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how USC and Utah match up statistically:
USC Offense vs. Utah Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Utah Offense vs. USC Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||120||23|
|Seconds per Play||27.4 (89)||28.5 (105)|
|Rush Rate||51.6% (78)||57.1% (40)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
USC vs. Utah Betting Pick
There may be personal motivation for Whittingham to beat USC. Utah lost a linebacker to the Trojans through the portal in the offseason, causing the Utes head coach to verbalize his distaste for the new world of college football, and indirectly, USC.
While that narrative won't play out on the field, the Trojans' inability to defend the run will play a huge part in the winner of this game. USC ranks outside the top 100 in Defensive Success Rate and has allowed the 83rd-most first downs.
Teams that establish the rush and excel in ball protection possess the formula to beat the Trojans. Not only does Utah have a healthy Thomas, but the Utes also rank sixth nationally in Havoc Allowed.
More importantly, Utah will dominate USC in standard downs, with a success rate of 14th against the Trojans' rank of 112th. Oregon State possessed similar strength in methodical, ground-based drives but ultimately lost due to four interceptions.
The Action Network projection gives Utah a 4.5-point advantage with a total of 60.5.
A case could be made for the under considering the Utes' ability to limit explosive plays and refusal to allow touchdowns in the red zone.
Look for Whittingham to turn up the pressure in sending more than four defenders after Williams, as the offense drains the clock with scoring drives.