College Football Odds, Picks for Utah vs. Baylor
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images. Pictured: Dave Aranda (Baylor)
Utah vs. Baylor Odds
The 2023 season couldn't have opened more differently for Utah than it did for Baylor.
Many were concerned about the Utes' chances in the opener with star QB Cam Rising sidelined while recovering from offseason surgery. The Utes handled business at home against Florida, just as they have done so many times in the Kyle Whittingham era.
Meanwhile in Waco, probably the most stunning result of the opening weekend happened. Baylor was a 26.5-point favorite to Texas State and the Bears lost outright in a game where they were pretty much dominated from start to finish.
Now the Utes and Bears meet in what will technically be a conference game starting next season. That still feels weird to type.
Will Dave Aranda and the Bears be able to quickly turn the page and have a bounce back effort? Or will Utah continue its winning ways? Let's discuss.
You'd be hard pressed to name more than six or seven programs that have been more consistent than Utah over the last five to seven years.
A lot of that is due to the culture Whittingham has built and the next man up mentality within the locker room.
Bryson Barnes stepped right in for Rising and was more than serviceable. He took what the Gators' defense gave him and showed some moxie in a couple of big throws down the field. There's a chance that Rising returns this week, but if he's not quite ready, Barnes has shown he can run this offense.
On the other side of the ball, the Utes' defense bent but did not break in the opener.
Florida did next to nothing on the ground, forcing Graham Mertz into 44 attempts which is simply not a recipe for sustained success. Mertz played okay and did move it through the air some, but the Utes held Florida to just 1-for-13 on third down. That's how you hold a team to 11 points.
Taking away the Baylor running attack will once again be a focal point for the Utes' defense.
Anything that could go wrong went wrong in the opener for Baylor.
The most glaring issue, however, was the performance on the defensive side of the ball. That's supposed to be Aranda's calling card.
Texas State put up 42 points, went for 441 yards of total offense and converted all four of its fourth down conversion attempts. The Bobcats gashed Baylor for big plays in the running game, and TJ Finley had a field day finding open receivers down the field.
Offensively, there was plenty of production, but there was also some rather poor run blocking and two costly turnovers. To make matters even worse, it was announced earlier this week that QB Blake Shapen will be out for the next couple of weeks with an MCL injury.
Despite all of that, I think there's reason to believe you'll see a much different performance from the Bears on Saturday.
Backup QB Sawyer Robertson has the respect of the locker room, and the Mississippi State transfer has plenty of arm talent. Utah's defense is always tough, but Baylor has a stable of playmakers in its WR corps that will provide challenges to the Utes' secondary.
Lastly, I still have a lot of respect for Aranda's defensive mind, and I expect some major adjustments as a result. The Utes feature a much more methodical offense compared to the spread, high-tempo approach from Texas State, something that really bothered Baylor.
Utah vs Baylor
Betting Pick & Prediction
Ultimately, this number has moved too much for me not to back the home team getting over a touchdown.
In lookahead lines in the preseason, this game was right around a pick'em, and that was with the expectation that Rising would be in the lineup for the Utes.
I expect Aranda to have been on his team hard all week after the Texas State debacle, and I think you'll see Baylor's best effort in this one.
I don't know if it will be enough to win the game outright, but the Bears will hang inside the number here.