Utah vs. USC: TV info, betting odds, and expert predictions
The game we’ve had circled all year long has finally arrived. It’s hard to oversell just how impactful this matchup between the 20th-ranked Utah Utes and the seventh-ranked USC Trojans really is, and though the Utes enter with a pair of losses, that’ll do nothing to tamp down the fans who pack into Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday evening.
There are Pac-12 Championship Game implications and possibly even larger College Football Playoff ramifications in this matchup.
USC will face its stiffest test yet this season against a Utah team designed to be its antithesis.
This is development and program building done the long way and continuity and establishment on one side with Utah. On the other, you have flash and the rapid overhaul brought about by the transfer portal and new blood looking to break through.
The Utes want to run the ball at the Trojans. Both outfits put up 40 points a game, but pundits have pointed all week to Utah’s ground game being one that could expose USC’s biggest weakness — its run defense.
Coach Lincoln Riley’s group leads the nation in sacks and interceptions. It’s a product of jumping on teams and forcing them to try and play catch-up. The defense has been able to attack with a bit of a safety net knowing either, A) the offense is going to put up points behind them, or B) the offense has already given them a big lead.
Of course, the Trojans have won a game with their defense (Oregon State) and showed last week they have the ability to create major havoc at the line of scrimmage (hello, Tuli Tuipulotu). But they haven’t yet faced a team like Utah.
No other Pac-12 team runs it more on a per-game basis than the Utes, and they average 5 yards a carry doing so. They’re also fifth nationally in line yards per carry on standard downs, meaning when Utah is on-schedule on offense, the offensive line is pushing forward with the best of them.
The best way to limit a deadly USC offense is to make them stand cold on the sidelines. Utah has a quartet of backs — Tavion Thomas, Micah Bernard, Jaylon Glover, and Ja’Quinden Jackson — to throw at USC, and all could conceivably see the field to keep guys fresh into the fourth quarter.
These two sides fit well together. Utah has a star corner to match up with USC’s star receiver. Utah has an offense designed to attack the weak points of USC’s defense, and USC has a quarterback who can make life miserable for a Utah defensive front that has struggled to generate much pressure from base looks.
It should be a chess match between two of the league’s best coaches. Here’s everything you need to know about the game.
TV info and kickoff time
Kickoff time: 5 p.m. PT
TV network: FOX; fans can also watch the game live on FOXSports.com with a cable or satellite provider login
Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City
Line: Utah -3.5
Money line: Utah -170, USC +140
ESPN’s FPI gives Utah a 61.6% chance of beating the Trojans.
Bill Connelly’s SP+ is calling for a 35-28 Utah victory, giving the Utes a 65% chance to win.
ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt likes the Utes to win:
“We’re on the Utes in a massive spot against USC. Lincoln Riley and the Trojans have pulled a real quick U-turn and have ’SC in the top 10. This is the Trojans toughest road test, by a lot, this season. Rice-Eccles at night is a spooky place for road teams.”
USA TODAY’s Paul Myerberg likes Utah to win as well:
Utah stomps on Southern California to create a real logjam at the top of the Pac-12. USC has remained unbeaten through the start of conference play but could be in for a long night in Salt Lake City as the Utes try to rally from a 4-2 start and factor into the New Year’s Six race. Utah had been outstanding defending the pass before a letdown last week against UCLA, while Caleb Williams and the Trojans have been hit or miss through the air for the better part of a month. Look for the Utes to establish a running game and wear down a USC defense that has faced more than 62 plays in a game just once this season.
CBS Sports’ seven-man panel of writers is 5-2 in favor of USC winning. Dennis Dodd and Shehan Jeyarajah like the Utes straight up while Tom Fornelli, Chip Patterson, Barrett Sallee, David Cobb, and Jerry Palm have USC leaving Salt Lake City with a win. Patterson wrote the following:
There should be some real concern with Utah’s inability to get pressure on Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the loss to UCLA. There is going to be plenty for Lincoln Riley and his staff to work with in terms of looking to exploit Utah’s defense in a similar manner, and the recent success of the Trojans defense is a welcome sign when that side fo the ball was thought to be a weakness coming into the season. Utah will play better than it did against UCLA, but things aren’t quite clicking at the championship level we expected coming into the season. I give USC a decent chance to win, so I think taking the points is the right play.