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USC

vs.

Utah

College Football Pick

9/23/16

USC knew it was going to be hard going into the season, but maybe not this hard. The Trojans have one of the hardest schedules in the country and it doesn't help that not many Pac-12 teams look all that weak this year. They're on the road for another one, this time on a short week to play at Utah on Friday night.

The Utes haven't had as nearly as tough of schedule getting Southern Utah and San Jose State in two of their first three games. BYU wasn't easy, but at least they got that game at home. And once again, they'll be home for their Pac-12 opener against a team that gave them their first loss a year ago.

The Trojans won this meeting 42-24 at home last season with the main difference being the four interceptions that Travis Wilson threw. Otherwise, the Utes looked better on the ground and Wilson was just as efficient as Cody Kessler (outside of the INTs). Take those interceptions away and it's a close game, something that could happen this time around.

Utah hasn't looked great, far from it, but they remain unscathed heading into the conference season. In their toughest game, Utes quarterback Troy Williams threw three interceptions, yet they still walked away with a 20-19 win. That was made possible by BYU's QB also throwing three picks. To win this game, Williams can't throw those interceptions or it will end up similar to last year's result.

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Of course, Utah knows this and they're going to run the ball as much as possible with a committee of running backs, whether it's Troy McCormick, Joe Williams or even Troy Williams. Right now, it's hard to predict how good USC's run defense is because they've either played two of the best running teams in the nation (Alabama, Stanford) or gone against a mediocre offense in Utah State.

For the Trojans to win this game on the road, they'll need to stop the Utah running game. Stop that running game and good things will happen, including Williams throwing some more interceptions.

But the same can be said on the other side of the field with Max Browne and Sam Darnold splitting duties for the Trojans. Browne is the starter, but he simply didn't get it done against the Crimson Tide, so they tried Darnold out in the second game and it worked to an extent. But even with Darreus Rogers and JuJu Smith-Schuster out wide, USC is a team that wants to run the ball in order for their QBs not to lose the game.

But will they be able to run on this defense? Maybe. The Trojans averaged just 2.6 yards per carry as a team in last year's meeting, but this Utah front line doesn't look as good as 2015's version. They gave up 3.6 ypc to Southern Utah in an easy win and then let BYU go for 5.3 ypc in a one-point win.

With both teams in a similar situation, having to rely on the running game with questionable QB play, this has all the makings of a close, lower-scoring game, similar to 2014's result when Utah won 24-21. Of course, USC has still won four of the past five meetings since Utah joined the conference..

Our numbers have this game as a coin flip. In that type of a set up, once the nmber reaches a field goal or more, which it has, we have to take the points. USC +3

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