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Pick - Analysis
Neither of these teams is in the spot they wanted to be in at the start of the year. Despite 4-3 records, both have losing records in conference play. And unless they get some fortuitous bounces, it's unlikely they will compete for the top spot in the Pac-12 South. Utah had a nice win against Stanford two weeks ago, but has lost in every other conference game. USC doesn't have a great win, recently fired its head coach and just lost to Notre Dame, 14-10. Still, due to injuries, the Trojans are -6.5 home favorites at 5 dimes sportsbook with a total of 54.
USC controlled last year's game in Utah, winning 38-28. However, that was with the help of a healthy Matt Barkley and Marqise Lee. The situation is a little different this year with Cody Kessler at the helm. It doesn't help that Lee has been dealing with a sprained knee for a couple weeks, either.
Kessler isn't a bad quarterback, but in his first year as the starter, he isn't going to win any games single-handedly. He's completing 60 percent of his passes for just eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Lee only has two receptions in the last two games due to injury and is questionable to play in this one. Outside of Lee, Nelson Agholor is the only other respectable receiver USC has. Agholor has gone for 250 yards the past two weeks in Lee's absence. Along with that, starting tailback Tre Madden is dealing with a hamstring injury and hasn't played in the last two games. Last year's starter Silas Redd is healthy now, and has come in at the right time with 192 yards the last two games.
The Utes don't have a great defense, but then again USC isn't an offensive powerhouse. It'll be interesting to see how Kessler rebounds from last week's 10-point performance.
As for Utah, they also have issues as starting quarterback Travis Wilson is dealing with a thumb injury. He missed a good portion of the Arizona loss and is listed as uncertain to play against USC. Adam Schulz came in last week, but couldn't do much. It's not like Wilson is a super accurate passer, but Schulz is a little less experienced and could be a problem for the Utes if he starts. Wilson also is a better runner, which helps open up the offense. RB Bubba Poole couldn't get anything going against the Wildcats with just 12 carries for 35 yards and that was coming off a 111-yard performance vs. Stanford. For Utah to compete, they'll need Poole and the ground game to do some damage.
The Trojans have been inconsistent throughout the year on both sides of the ball. Will last week's defense show up, or will the one that allowed 31 points to Arizona? If Wilson doesn't start, USC has the advantage, but it's a slight one if Marqise Lee doesn't go.
The Utes are 1-4 ATS in their last five road games and 1-6 ATS in their last seven conference games. The Trojans aren't much better going 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games overall and they haven't covered in five straight home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
This game has been teetering back and forth between -6.5 and -7. At +7 or better we'd have to go with Utah here as the numbers we like to look at suggest these are two very evenly matched. In fact, our model predicts a 26-26 final score. It doesn't get any closer than that. Utah +7 or better
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