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USC

vs.

Utah

Thursday Night

College Football Pick

10/4/12

Utah hosts USC in this weeks edition of Thursday Night Football on ESPN. USC opened as a -13 point favorite at 5 Dimes and SBG Global and has moved slightly to -13.5. As you might have guessed, the betting public is all over USC here as 95% of the early action at the world's largest sportsbook, sportsbook.ag, is on USC.

Each of these teams got a much needed bye week before coming into this Thursday night game. USC's offense is not where they wanted to be at this point in the season. They scored just 14 points in their loss to Stanford and were only able to put 27 on the board against a poor California defense. Utah on the other hand, already has two losses on the season, one to Utah State and most recently their complete disheveling at Arizona State. The positive for Utah is that this game is in Salt Lake City, where they are 2-0 and beat BYU in an upset a couple weeks ago.

Each team has an ugly 1-3 against the spread record coming into this game. There isn't much history between these teams, but in last year's game, USC covered a 7.5-point spread by winning 23-14. Utah lost a lot more players from last year's team than USC and that's why they sit as close to two TD underdogs in this one.

Matt Barkley was supposed to be a top Heisman candidate this season, but everything hasn't worked out for him. He has just 1,005 yards and 12 TDs to go with five interceptions. That's not the kind of ratio that wins you a Heisman considering he had 39 TDs and 7 INTs last year. Barkley only has two options which may be part of the problem. Marqise Lee and Robert Woods have combined for 65 grabs, 660 yards and 10 TDs. Newcomer Silas Redd has been solid on the ground, but doesn't stand out with 338 yards and four TDs. Maybe they figured things out during the bye or maybe they just aren't as good as we originally thought.

The Utes on the other hand, didn't have very high expectations coming into this year and their 37-7 loss at Arizona State shows that. They're hoping a home crowd can revive them against USC to make it at least a close game. However, if first year ASU QB Taylor Kelly can have a near flawless game against them, Barkley could be in line for a field day.

For Utah's offense, Jon Hays leads the way with just 467 yards and four TDs through three games. Their ground game doesn't get much better as John White has only 233 yards and one TD with a 3.6 yards per carry average. A positive is that the defense can't focus on two main WRs like for USC. Utah has eight players that have at least five catches, but less than 10. Hays will spread the ball around, but that hasn't been of much benefit yet.

The Trojans sit at a pretty 5-1 ATS in their last six conference games and are looking to extend that record. They are also 5-2 ATS in their last seven Thursday games. Utah on the other hand are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 home games although they are 6-2 ATS in their last eight home games in which their opponent had a winning record.

USC is highly touted just about every year and this year was no exception. But they simply haven't delivered the way a championship caliber team would have. Seriously folks, what do you think Alabama would have done to Syracuse or Cal? But it's equally as difficult to make a case for the Utes. Even their win over BYU should NOT have been a win. They were outplayed. If you saw only the box score, you'd wonder how they ended up on top.

Our score prediction model starts to kick in right about now, at least to where we can use it in conjunction with our other methods. Interestingly enough, it comes up with a score almost identical to last years game. Our model says USC 24 Utah 14 which would suggest a Utah cover, though we have a hard time backing the Utes here as we don't see them keeping up with USC, just as they couldn't keep up with Arizona State. As of this writing on Monday there is no total posted, but we would lean towards the under as long as the total was 44 or higher.

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