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Utah

vs.

USC

College Football

Free Pick

10/14/17

USC hasn’t gotten much buzz since its loss to Washington State, but that should change leading up to this game. The Trojans host Utah in a primetime game on ABC so there will be plenty of eyeballs on Sam Darnold and company. USC was a -13 point favorite early in the week at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

For maybe the first time all season, USC took care of business last week as it handled Oregon State as expected. They’d like to do the same in this one, but the Utes look like a feisty team per usual, despite coming off a home loss to Stanford. Utah actually won this game last year and it happened to be Darnold’s first career start under center. The bigger storyline ended up being Utah’s offense, which did whatever it wanted on the ground and through the air behind Troy Williams. Maybe conveniently for this game, Williams, who lost the starting job ahead of the season, got the call against the Cardinal last week.

While Williams could get another start, he’s mostly a run-first quarterback that hasn’t improved as a passer. Regular starter Tyler Huntley is dealing with a bum shoulder and has at least shown some competency passing the ball. If Huntley can’t go, there has been some rumblings of Alabama transfer Cooper Bateman getting the start, but that decision was far from over at the time of writing. The Utes will remain a team that wants to run the ball first behind Zack Moss and only pass when needed. That’s especially the case with Williams, who has completed just 29-of-58 passes this season.

The only good news for the Utah offense is that USC has struggled defensively for most of the season. The Trojans have allowed bunches of yards on the ground and that could help Moss and a mobile quarterback. Throw in Utah’s penchant for staying competitive no matter the matchup and that could be enough to keep this game close.

The Utes still have a stout defense, although haven’t faced an offense like USC’s yet. In fact, their toughest test was probably Stanford and that’s not saying much. Still, Utah should at least give Darnold a fight.

Even after scoring 38 points against Oregon State, this offense still isn’t as explosive as expected. Darnold threw yet another interception last game and has thrown one in all six games this season. His numbers are worse across the board from 2016 and that has led to less consistency for the offense as a whole. The Trojans should be able to carve up yards per usual with running back Ronald Jones, but Utah’s rush defense can’t be overlooked, allowing just 108 yards per game.

The Trojans are a heavy favorite because of the name, but not because of how they’ve played. The home team has dominated this series, covering in the last six meetings so USC gets that edge. Yet, the Trojans haven’t covered in their last four games, while the Utes have covered in their last five road games. Utah +13

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