Utah Utes vs. Stanford Cardinal Picks & Predictions: Your Friday Night College Football Betting Preview (Nov. 5)

Utah Utes vs. Stanford Cardinal Picks & Predictions: Your Friday Night College Football Betting Preview (Nov. 5) article feature image

Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Cam Rising.

Utah vs. Stanford Odds

Friday, Nov. 5
10:30 p.m. ET
Utah Odds
-105o / -115u
Stanford Odds
-105o / -115u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

The Utah Utes travel to the Farm to take on the Stanford Cardinal in a Friday night edition of Pac-12 After Dark.

Utah comes in riding high after beating UCLA, 44-24, last Saturday in Salt Lake City. The Utes are 5-3 on the season, but they lead the Pac-12 South at 4-1 in conference play.

After Arizona State lost at home last week as two-touchdown favorites, the Utes essentially have a two-game lead in the Pac-12 South, as they already own the tiebreaker with the Sun Devils (who are 3-2 in conference play).

The Cardinal sit in the Pac-12 North’s basement at 2-4 in conference play after a frustrating 20-13 home loss to Washington last Saturday night. For the second consecutive game, the Cardinal had the ball late in the fourth quarter with the lead.

Instead of picking up points or moving the chains enough to run the clock out, the Cardinal opted to play conservatively and punt each time.

Both at Washington State and at home against Washington, the Cardinal’s defense allowed the opposing offense to score a touchdown on its final drive as Stanford lost each game.

Can the Cardinal bounce back with a win — and cover — against the Utes on Friday night?

Utah Utes

Utah Offense

If Utah wins and covers as 7.5-point favorites, it will be because it establishes the run.

The strength of the Utah offense is the running game, and this will open up the play-action pass for quarterback Cameron Rising to connect with tight ends Dalton Kincaid and Brant Kuithe (who lead the team in receiving yards).

This recipe has worked well for the Utes after Rising took over as the starting quarterback. Expect their offense, which ranks 16th in Line Yards and 42nd in Rush Success Rate, to have success on the ground against a poor Stanford rush defense.

Running back Tavion Thomas is coming off a dominant performance in which he rushed 24 times for 160 yards and four touchdowns against UCLA’s defense that was thought to be strong against the run.

Since Rising became the starter against Washington State, the Utes have gone 4-1 (all against Pac-12 opponents) with their only loss coming at Oregon State, 42-34.

Had Rising played against BYU or played earlier against San Diego State (he entered against SDSU in relief and nearly led the Utes back to win as he threw for three touchdowns), Utah would be ranked.

Utah Defense

Utah’s defense will help the Utes win and cover if it can put pressure on Stanford’s quarterback. The Cardinal are the worst rushing team in the Pac-12, so the Utes will need to stop Stanford’s passing game to win.

The strength of the Cardinal offense is that they rank 21st in big plays and rank 55th in Pass Success Rate.

The Utes will need to limit the Cardinal’s big plays and force them to win by methodically moving the ball down the field and converting in the red zone. This will be a challenge for the Stanford offense that has generated no push at the line of scrimmage and ranks 105th in Finishing Drives.

Top-Graded @PFF Defensive Players thru Week 9

84.3—Devin Lloyd, Utah
84.1—Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
83.9—Marqez Bimage, Cal
83.7—Drake Jackson, USC
82.0—Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
81.8—Elijah Hicks, Cal
81.2—Ron Stone Jr., WSU
80.5—Kyler Gordon, Washington
79.8—Vonte Davis, Utah

— SportsPac12 (@SportsPac12) November 2, 2021

Linebacker Devin Lloyd leads this talented defense for Utah. Lloyd leads the Pac-12 with 14 tackles for loss, and he also comes in as PFF’s highest-graded linebacker in the Conference of Champions.

Fellow linebacker Nephi Sewell is the second-highest graded linebacker in the Pac-12, while defensive end Mika Tafua ranks third in the conference with 8.5 tackles for loss, as the Utes rank 24th in Havoc created.

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Stanford Cardinal

Stanford Offense

The Cardinal need Tanner McKee to play on Friday to have a chance to cover or win outright.

After playing just about every meaningful snap since Week 1, McKee was surprisingly listed as questionable for the game against Utah this week.

However, the good news for Stanford fans is that its top receiver, Michael Wilson, will make his season debut on Friday.

Other Stanford personnel updates vs. Utah

– WR Michael Wilson is a full go, TE Bradley Archer will also return

– DBs Salim Turner-Muhammad & Ethan Bonner are probable

– WRs John Humphreys & Elijah Higgins are questionable

– RB/PR Casey Filkins & TE Lukas Ungar are out https://t.co/umkzxeywCc

— Troy Clardy (@TroyClardy) November 2, 2021

If big-bodied receivers John Humphreys and Elijah Higgins (both questionable) play on Friday, this will be a big boost for a Cardinal team that will need to win through the air with big plays against Utah.

The Cardinal are still talented even without those two, as Wilson, tight end Ben Yurosek, and running back/wide receiver E.J. Smith are more than capable of carrying the passing game.

However, the offensive line play hasn’t been up to par for Stanford. The Cardinal have seemingly gotten worse at the line of scrimmage year after year since about 2016, and this offensive line may be the worst.

The Cardinal rank 120th in Line Yards and 115th in Rush Success Rate — a far cry from the dominant rushing attacks and "Intellectual Brutality" that took the Cardinal to three Rose Bowls over the last decade.

Stanford also ranks a disappointing 91st in pass blocking, and this has made it tough to score when it hasn’t connected on big plays. Stanford has scored more than 24 points in regulation just once in its last five Pac-12 games.

If McKee is healthy, it will have a puncher’s chance of winning this game if its offensive line steps up.

However, if the offensive line can’t keep Lloyd, Tafua, and the rest of the Utah defense out of the backfield, or if McKee is out, the Cardinal will get blown out.

The gap between McKee and backup quarterback Jack West will be insurmountable for the Cardinal offense, as West has looked horrible in his small sample size of meaningful action, most recently in Week 1 when he threw two interceptions against Kansas State.

Stanford Defense

The Stanford offense needs to play well for the Cardinal to have a chance because its defense can’t even stop a nosebleed right now.

Stanford’s defense faces a stiff challenge against the Utah rushing attack, as the Cardinal rank 123rd in Line Yards and 128th in Rush Success Rate. If the Cardinal hope to win or cover, they need to stop the run and give themselves a chance to stop Rising through the air on third downs.

The strength of the Cardinal defense is that they rank 15th in big plays allowed and rank 40th in Pass Success Rate. The Cardinal have one of the best corners in the conference in Kyu Blu Kelly, and freshman nickel Jimmy Wyrick has also been impressive.

The Cardinal secondary will also get a boost, as they likely welcome back cornerbacks Salim Turner-Muhammad and Ethan Bonner (both are probable), who have combined to play in just one game this season.

Utah vs. Stanford Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Utah and Stanford match up statistically:

Utah Offense vs. Stanford Defense
Rush Success42128
Line Yards16123
Pass Success7540
Pass Blocking**9280
Big Play7815
Finishing Drives4151
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Stanford Offense vs. Utah Defense
Rush Success11577
Line Yards12090
Pass Success5546
Pass Blocking**9168
Big Play2142
Finishing Drives10562
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling9080
Middle 88353
SP+ Special Teams12630
Plays per Minute58116
Rush Rate51.5% (90)45.8% (119)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Utah vs. Stanford Betting Pick

The Utes are the better team on both lines of scrimmage, and unless the Stanford offensive line and McKee step up, they should win and cover as 7.5-point favorites.

Expect the Utes to run all over the Cardinal defense and put up 30 or more points. Wait until the news on McKee’s status comes out before placing your bets. If McKee is active, I would expect the spread to go back down to -7 (where it sat before he was announced questionable), and you can buy the Utes at a better price.

If McKee is out, I would expect the spread to rise up toward Utah -10. If McKee plays, take Utah at -8 or better at a half unit. If McKee is out, take Utah at -13 or better.

If Utah is at -8 or better with McKee out, I would place two units on the Utes. If McKee is out and the spread is between -13 and -8.5, I recommend 1.5 units on Utah.

Pick: Utah -7.5

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