Max Meyer’s betting previews are part of a weekly column on Reign of Troy to highlight the Las Vegas odds and daily fantasy picks around college football. This week’s edition previews USC vs. Utah game. For entertainment purposes only.
You were probably surprised when No. 3 Utah opened as three-point underdogs at unranked USC. Since 2000, this is the first time in college football betting history that a top-three team wasn’t a Vegas favorite against an unranked one.
So you’d think that the line would go down after that “confusing” opening line right? Wrong.
USC became a 3.5-point favorite, then up to 4, and now back down to 3.5. Per industry experts, it’s been the sharps that have been betting on USC versus the public betting on underdog Utah.
The Trojans have suffered quite a few injuries lately, including two big blows on its offensive line. Center Max Tuerk, USC’s best offensive lineman, is out for the season. Left tackle Chad Wheeler is out this game with a concussion, which means right tackle Zach Banner shifts to the left side and true freshman Chuma Edoga will start at right tackle.
This is definitely a match up that Utah’s vaunted defensive line can take advantage of. But the Utes also have big-time playmakers at linebacker (senior linebackers Gionni Paul and Jared Norris lead the team in tackles) and in the secondary (sophomore free safety Marcus Williams and junior cornerback Dominique Hatfield have combined for seven interceptions).
After a great start to the season, Cody Kessler has multiple interceptions in two of the last three games. He hasn’t had a clean pocket to work with, and members of a loaded receiver corps such as Steven Mitchell Jr. haven’t been healthy. Still, as long as Juju Smith-Schuster is healthy (39 catches for 758 yards and seven TDs), USC will always have a matchup advantage on the outside. Adoree’ Jackson is also expected to play a lot more offense this game, which gives the Trojans another dimension.
But the truth is, USC needs to run the ball more. Especially with Ronald Jones II. As Neon Tommy’s Paolo Uggetti pointed out, Jones II is ranked in the top 10 in CFB in yards per carry, but not even in the top 100 in carries. That goes to show that he needs more opportunities in games, even if he’s a true freshman. The offensive line has been better at run blocking this season, and I think a successful rushing attack is the only chance USC has of beating Utah.
There isn’t a doubt that Utah will be running the ball a lot though. Star tailback Devontae Booker is averaging 26.8 carries per game. He leads the Utes with 783 rushing yards, eight touchdowns and 23 receptions. This do-it-all-back is arguably the toughest offensive player a disappointing USC defense will have to deal with this season. Outside of linebacker Su’a Cravens, USC’s tackling has been a mess and its pass rush has been non-existent.
Senior quarterback Travis Wilson has thrown only three interceptions this year compared to seven TD passes. Ideally for Utah, he’s nothing more than a game manager while Booker and the defense take over. Wilson tossed the game-winning touchdown to Kaelin Clay with eight seconds left against USC last season in Salt Lake City.
USC has not lost three regular season games since 2001, or Pete Carroll’s first season as USC coach. Even though the Trojans are better than their record indicates, there are still too many holes on this team to consistently win big football games. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham knows this is a big chance for him to lead the way in the USC coaching sweepstakes, and there’s clearly an advantage on the sidelines in this game.
Utah’s stingy defense and clock-burning run game has caused the UNDER to cash in 12 of its last 17 games. With this game’s total at 60, I think that’s the clear play for this game. USC will definitely fight hard this game, and I see many similarities between this contest and the Stanford win under Ed Orgeron. But still, I’m picking No. 3 Utah to upset USC as well.
USC vs. Utah Final Score Prediction:Utah 28, USC 24
Best Bet: UNDER 60 points
Other Pac-12 Bets I Like (or for you to fade):
- Washington State +7.5 at Arizona
- Washington State/Arizona OVER 74 points
- Colorado +2.5 at Oregon State
Last Week’s Record: 2-3 | Season Record: 8-20 | Best Bets Record: 0-5
College Football DFS
At least my DFS picks have been on fire this season.
Two USC players stand out this week: one is Adoree’ Jackson at $4,100, especially since this will probably be the game in which he gets his most offensive snaps so far this season. Also, the Trojans’ best running back is Ronald Jones II, yet he isn’t priced like it at $3,700. I think he gets more carries this week. Below are my current lineups for the day and night slates in the Saturday games.