Odds & Pick for Utah vs. San Diego State: Do the Utes Bounce Back Following Loss?
Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: San Diego State helmet.
Utah vs. San Diego State Odds
-105o / -115u
|San Diego State Odds|
-105o / -115u
Utah looks to rebound from a road loss at BYU last week when it travels to take on San Diego State.
Utah was a dark horse to win the Pac-12 before the season, but that took a bit of a hit last Saturday when it lost in Provo to BYU, 26-17.
This is now Year 17 under Kyle Whittingham, with the last seven being above .500. The Utes have a ton of new faces on offense but bring back a ton of experience on defense. This will be a big test to see if Utah is actually one of the contenders for the Pac-12 or if this is going to be a down year.
Utah’s offense was actually quite efficient against BYU on Saturday night, gaining 6.67 yards per play, but turnovers did it in. BYU controlled most of the possession, as Utah only ran 51 plays.
The rushing attack was actually really efficient with Micah Bernard, who gained a whopping 146 yards on only 12 carries. A lot of the Utes’ success last season came on the ground on the backs of explosive plays, as they ranked 11th in rushing explosiveness in 2020.
Former Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer is under center now for Utah, which is an upgrade from Jake Bentley last season. Per PFF, the Utes passing attack had the second highest dropoff in EPA per pass play from 2019 to 2020.
Whittingham is hoping Brewer can be the answer, but he had a down year at Baylor in 2020, as he only had a 62.8 passing grade and had a 4.7% turnover worthy play rate, which was 70th in FBS, per PFF.
Brewer will have the benefit of Utah’s top two pass-catchers back, but going up against one of the best defenses in college football last season is going to be a big test.
The defensive side of the ball for Utah is what is going to drive its success this season. The Utes bring back a ton of production with a TARP rating of 86% from a defense that was top 25 in offensive success rate and explosive plays allowed.
The Utah defense also led the Pac-12 in EPA per play allowed, so it is going to be just as good as it was last season. Utah showed it against BYU last Saturday night, allowing only 5.00 yards per play.
The front seven was fantastic at stopping the run last season, allowing only 3.8 yards per attempt and was top 20 in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, Stuff Rate, and Defensive Line Yards. However, Utah didn’t face any elite rushing offenses last season in its five games, so facing one of the best rushing attacks in the Group of Five is going to be a step up in competition.
The Utah secondary was pretty average last season, ranking 56th in coverage per PFF. The good news is it will be facing a very poor San Diego State passing attack, so the key for Utah on Saturday night will be stopping the run.
San Diego State notched a win over a Power Five program last Saturday night, blowing out Arizona 38-14 on the road to get to 2-0.
San Diego State is now under Year 2 of Brady Hoke as the head coach, but it’s his third year with the team. San Diego State has high aspirations with one of the best defenses in the conference. Another win over a Power Five program could vault San Diego State into one of the elites of the Mountain West.
San Diego State’s offense ran wild over Arizona on Saturday, rushing the ball a whopping 55 times against the Wildcats for 4.9 yards a carry.
— San Diego State Football (@AztecFB) September 12, 2021
However, that was against potentially one of the worst run defenses in the Power Five, and Utah’s will be the stiffest test they’ve seen under Brady Hoke.
The Aztecs offense is built on having a consistent rushing attack. Over the past two seasons, the Aztecs have run the ball on over 61% of their plays, which is one of the highest percentages for a non-triple option offense.
The rushing attack is led by second-team All-MWC running back Greg Bell who carried the ball for a whopping 5.6 yards per carry in 2020 and is averaging 7.5 yards per carry through his first two games. The rushing attack is only going to improve as the season goes along, as San Diego State gets four of its five offensive linemen back from a group that had a top-15 run-blocking grade a year ago, per PFF.
The passing game has had its struggles with Jordan Brookshire under center in 2020. However, Brookshire is doubtful to play on Saturday, which means Lucas Johnson is going to start.
San Diego State QB Jordon Brookshire doubtful for Utah; Lucas Johnson expected to start https://t.co/hKs9PoOieV
— College Fantasy Football (@FBSFantasyFoot) September 17, 2021
I would say it’s a big loss, but Brookshire only averaged 5.5 yards per attempt, had a 58.4 passing grade and failed to make one big-time throw in 74 pass attempts, per PFF. Johnson started one game last season, going 14 of 28 for 184 yards and a touchdown against Nevada, but the San Diego State rushing attack is what will guide it to victory.
The Aztecs potentially have the best defense in college football outside of the Power Five, as last season they ranked fifth nationally in terms of EPA per play. They showed it against Arizona on Saturday night, holding the Wildcats to only 4.10 yards per play and 51 yards on the ground.
Last season, they were the No. 1 team in the country in terms of Rushing Success Rate Allowed, Stuff Rate and Power Success Rate Allowed, so this defense is for real.
They’ve continued that this season, and it is a small sample size, but through their first two games this season their defense is ranked in the top five in both Rushing and Passing Success Rate Allowed.
They only lost one starter from their front seven, and what takes this Aztec defense to the next level is creating Havoc, ranking 18th nationally a season ago. Utah ranked 97th in preventing Havoc last season and ranked 122nd of college football in terms of pass blocking, per PFF.
The secondary lost three starters from a season ago, when it ranked ninth nationally in Passing Success Rate Allowed and fifth in coverage, per PFF. However, this will still be a solid group and should be able to shut down at best average Utah passing attack.
Utah vs. San Diego State Matchup Analysis
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Utah Offense vs. San Diego State Defense
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Utah vs. San Diego State Betting Pick
I love San Diego State’s matchup on defense versus Utah.
The Aztecs are capable of taking away any type of efficiency in the pass or the run from the Utes. They will need to establish their rushing attack against a good Utah front seven, but their defense should be able to keep them in this game.
Also, Brady Hoke is pretty good as an underdog.
Utah opened at a -7 favorite and has been bet all the way to -9.
I only have Utah projected at -3.57, so I think there is some value on the Aztecs at home at +9, which is still available at BetMGM, and I would play it down to +7.