It’s a clear road ahead for Utah to reach the Pac-12 title game, though that’s usually easier said than done in this conference. That said, UCLA shouldn’t provide too much resistance. The Utes were -21 point home favorites with an over/under of 52 earlier in the week.
UCLA, similar to Oregon State in the North division, isn’t as bad as once believed. The Bruins somehow have a 4-2 conference record and have won their last three. The problem in this conference is that there are a few really good teams and the rest are mediocre. They have four conference wins, but all of them are against teams with losing conference records. UCLA still has a defensive problem and it was only a few weeks ago that it gave up 38 points to Oregon State.
Utah has the advantage in the trenches and should control this matchup unless it takes its foot off the gas after beating Washington a couple weeks ago. The Utes prefer to run the ball, but the Bruins struggle most against the pass, allowing almost 300 passing yards per contest. Tyler Huntley isn’t asked to do much, yet is averaging 10.1 yards per attempt for 11 touchdowns and one interception. Otherwise, this offense goes through Zack Moss, who has at least 99 rushing yards in the last four games and is averaging 6.1 yards per carry for the season. Considering he’s had success against better defense the last few weeks, there’s no reason he won’t have success in this game.
The other problem for UCLA is that Utah’s allowing 56 rushing yards and 12.2 points per game. When not facing a formidable foe like Washington, it has throttled opponents, allowing 10 points in the prior three games combined. Sure, UCLA has scored at least 31 points in each of the last four games, but this defensive front is on a different level than most in the conference.
Running back Joshua Kelley, who has run for at least 126 yards in four of the last five games, will likely have trouble finding the same holes. If Kelley doesn’t have the same kind of success against a group allowing 2.4 yards per carry, this offense will struggle, there’s no way around it. If that happens, Dorian Thompson-Robinson will be asked to do everything and that’s not a good thing. When the ground game wasn’t working early in the season, he struggled to move the ball. His numbers are fine overall, averaging 7.6 yards per attempt for 17 touchdowns, but five of those TDs came in the shootout against Wazzu.
This spread seems high for how well UCLA is playing, but it’s just been a weird year for the Pac-12. As long as Utah plays up to its standards, it should dominate both lines of scrimmage and win fairly easily. The question is by how much.
UCLA is 3-0-2 ATS in its last five following an ATS win and Utah is 5-0 ATS in its last five overall. The under is 6-2 in the last eight meetings between these schools. The road team is 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings, but the Utes are 4-1 ATS in the last five.
Our Pick – UCLA +21