Utah vs. USC Odds, Picks, Preview: Can Trojans win Pac-12 Battle?
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images. Pictured: Kedon Slovis (left), Drake London (center), and Darwin Barlow (right).
- USC hosts Utah in a Pac-12 South duel that begins at 8 p.m. ET
- The Trojans have already played four Pac-12 games, while the Utes opened up their conference schedule last week.
- Collin Wilson breaks down the game and provides his best bet.
Utah vs. USC Odds
|Utah Odds||+3 (-110)|
|USC Odds||-3 (-110)|
|Moneyline||+135 / -155|
|Over/Under||52.5 (-110 / -110)|
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.|
From a short- and long-term historical perspective, there may not be a more appetizing play than USC on the Week 6 schedule.
Utah has yet to cover a game on the 2021 season while only taking three games against the Trojans in the past 10 of this series. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2010, the Utes have never won a trip to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
While Utah undergoes a quarterback change and subsequent transfer of Charlie Brewer, USC has already fired coach Clay Helton.
Interim coach Donte Williams has played the role of bad cop after the win over Colorado, citing fumbles, penalties and celebrations that are not part of team football.
USC is not completely out of the division race at 2-2, but a win over Utah is vital to any remaining season goals.
The all-white throwback jerseys will accompany the Utes on the trip, as Utah looks to stay undefeated in the Pac-12 South.
New all white throwbacks are here 🔥 pic.twitter.com/o4mwdTjjVO
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) October 5, 2021
Utah vs. USC Betting Preview
Utah’s Offense Rising?
The switch to Cameron Rising over Brewer was done to create a spark within the offense.
After a vanilla 15-of-26 performance with an interception against BYU, Brewer entered the San Diego State game as the starter. The super senior posted a 31% Success Rate on 14-of-26 passing with no touchdowns.
Rising, who lost a close quarterback battle through training camp, took over duties under center and posted three touchdowns in the overtime comeback against the Aztecs.
Cameron Rising finds Solomon Enis for the 2 point conversion. We are headed to OT.
SAN DIEGO STATE 24
— CFB Blitz (@BlitzCfb) September 19, 2021
Brewer left the program after the victory, leaving only Texas freshman transfer Ja’Quinden Jackson as depth for Rising.
The Washington State game provided more vanilla play from the Utah quarterback position, with Rising going for 137 yards on 13-of-23 passing.
Rising targeted eight different players as he looked to find rhythm, but two drops and six pressures from a Cougars defense that is dead last in most categories suggest more work is needed from the Utah offense.
The trench ranks 110th in pass blocking and Havoc Allowed. Not all of that rank is on the offensive line, as Utah is near the bottom of FBS in fumbles for 2021.
Defending the Deep Shot
Utah has improved against opponents on deep passing attempts.
The schedule has not been the most fearful list of threats with Washington State, San Diego State, BYU and Weber State, but Utah is top-20 in Defensive Passing Expected Points.
The fundamentals are still there for head coach Kyle Whittingham and defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley, as the Utes are 16th in tackling and support a top-25 Defensive Havoc Rate.
The pass breakups are mid-FBS rank, but the tackles for loss rank top-10 among all teams nationally. Specifically, Devin Lloyd has been a one-man Havoc train and ranks second nationally in individual defensive grading, per PFF.
How USC’s AD and Co-Offensive Coordinator Impact the Game
Helton was quick to get a niche offense in place for the Trojans in 2019, aiming for Kliff Kingsbury. USC had the coach in place for a couple of weeks before the Arizona Cardinals presented a better offer, leaving the Trojans with the option of taking protege Graham Harrell.
Vertical deep shots became a part of a 2019 offense that destroyed defenses that refused to drop eight defenders into coverage. USC played plenty of empty-back 10 formations mixed with 11, but that offense has changed in Helton’s absence.
Although USC passes on 57% of offensive snaps, the 10 formations have been completely abandoned with a two-tight end set now representing 35% of attempts.
None of the current interim staff is expected to be retained by Athletic Director Mike Bohn, leading to speculation the offensive game plan has been taken away from Harrell.
This could be music to the ears of Utah coaches and staff who have consistently struggled in previous seasons against the Air Raid of USC and Washington State.
Kedon Slovis playing for his draft capital life!!! pic.twitter.com/UDXCHKtD26
— Ray G 🏁 (@RayGQue) October 2, 2021
There has been renewed focus for quarterback Kedon Slovis since returning from injury. The emergence of backup Jaxson Dart and the combination of an interim head coach has taken the handcuffs off Slovis taking aim at targets downfield.
This is a Trojans offense that ranks top-40 in Passing Success Rate and seventh in passing downs explosiveness.
USC Aims to Stop the Chains
USC has not been the most successful defense in stopping the chains, specifically when opponents attempt explosive plays. The Trojans are outside the top 100 in tackling and Defensive Havoc.
Defenses can live with giving up available yards, but firming up in the red zone is where teams separate themselves from a win and a loss. USC has not had success when opponents cross the 40-yard line, ranking 75th in Finishing Drives.
Of the 13 opponent scores against the Trojans defense, all 13 have been touchdowns.
The biggest issue for the defense is controlling the offense in early attempts.
USC ranks outside the top 100 in standard downs Success Rate and explosiveness on defense.
When USC has been able to force third downs, it has stepped up to the plate and allowed just 18 first downs for a rank in the top 25 in opponent conversions.
Utah vs. USC Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Utah and USC match up statistically:
Utah Offense vs. USC Defense
USC Offense vs. Utah Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Utah vs. USC Betting Pick
This game is a battle between a Utah team that has not covered a game and a USC team without a head coach leading a multi-quarterback shuffle.
The Utes’ numbers can be skewed no matter which side of the ball is reviewed, with a defense against a softer schedule of offenses and an offense that has been led by two different quarterbacks.
As for USC, the tempo from previous Air Raids has increased along with the number of shots downfield.
When Harrell had full control over the offensive plan under the Helton regime, Slovis took just 22% of passing attempts beyond 20 yards with nearly 70% coming behind the line of scrimmage or within nine yards against San Jose State. Those deep shots dropped to 11% of passing attempts against Stanford, the last game coached by Helton.
Since the change at head coach, downfield passing over 10 yards has jumped to nearly 40% for Slovis. Dart’s Week 3 passing chart saw 50% of passes go over 10 yards.
The Action Network projection on the game is USC -4, leaving little value to the spread.
But the total may be where the value lies. USC is still a team that struggles to tackle or take the ball away. No opponent has recorded a field goal on the Trojans because all 13 scores have been touchdowns. Will the Utah secondary be ready for the new aggressive downfield look from the Trojans?
Utah has struggled in key areas, specifically ranking 121st in special teams and 126th in Defensive Line Yards. The Utes are fantastic in Defensive Havoc, but those numbers are supported by attacking the rush and not passes defensed.
The Action Network projection on the total is 53.5, but there are plenty of key numbers to consider. Both 55 and 51 have the highest percentage of totals in games logged since 2000. The number of 53 is nowhere close, while 52 is in the top six of all key total numbers.
As of this writing, there are few 52s on the board, but considering the popularity of the number, it’s worth paying an extra 10 cents when playing the over.