Utah (-3.5) @ USC
As long as you’re alive and conscious you’ll notice my constant references to BYU. I’m aware. Other than the fact they are extremely similar in defensive standing to Utah, this is my reference point simply because both USC and Utah have played BYU. And both teams played on the road vs BYU.
With very different results. In a very short time. I felt like it was too good of a situation not to take advantage of and reference to throughout my take on this game. Now, onto why Utah probably won’t allow the freshman led Trojan fans the luxury of another nail biter.
USC is undefeated at home this year and is overall undefeated vs Utah in LA Memorial Coliseum. Well, that changes Friday night. Are we really sure a backup true freshman QB can rebound from a loss and take on an equally strong/stronger opponent?
If this game were in Utah, I don’t think we’d even be having this conversation.
However, as the schedule shows mercy, we ask ourselves can Kedon Slovis pull off the W for the home crowd? The kid actually handled himself well at BYU for the most part, only losing by 3 on the road in OT as a true freshman and throwing 24/34 for 281.
Only 10 incompletions? That doesn’t sound like a back-up QB. Neither does his overall 77% completion percentage. What does sound like a backup QB AND a freshman? So far this year he has posted 4 interceptions versus 5 touchdowns. Let’s dive into why he will be the determining factor if the spread is covered or if this kid can pull off the upset.
The answer to both of those “ifs” is a hard no. Hell no, even. Three interceptions versus two TDs last week against BYU turns me off to trusting this the kid when the game is on the line.
BYU has a very formidable defense, being ranked number 18 in all of college football. Initially you want to give the kid some slack and think he can bounce back at home and learn from the tape, until you realize that Utah has the number 14th ranked defense, 4 spots above BYU. Sure, it’s early in the season and those values don’t mean too much but I think Utah’s defense will stay highly ranked.
The main difference between the two defenses and why Utah won’t allow as close of a game as BYU did is the defensive line. Through only three games Utah has 37 sacks, eight more than BYU. That’s an average of 2.6 more a game. Depending on the timing and down and distance, two more sacks a game can easily have a major difference in the outcome.
It even implies a higher chance for turnovers. BYU was able to get to Kedon Slovis only two times. Based off numbers alone we should be able to deduct that Utah will get to Slovis at least four times.
Also, to credit Utah’s D line, they have only allowed about 100 yards/game rushing, while BYU has allowed 130. Utah’s D line is going to take the run game away from this USC offense and chase Slovis around the backfield all night.
Five sacks and two interceptions are certainly not out of the question and I feel that those lost possessions will certainly be a factor in how this game plays out.
But how are we so sure Utah’s offense will take advantage of the defensive support they are sure to get?
Despite BYU’s very good defense, both teams were able to score multiple times with a difference of only 3 points between each other (USC 27 and Utah 30). The main difference in the two games and the two outcomes was what Utah’s defense allowed. It isn’t really necessary to break down why Utah’s offense should out-perform USC because it doesn’t really matter. USC’s defense will not stop a top 25 team this year.
Zach Moss rushed for 187 yards against BYU. He’s solely responsible for BYU’s average rushing yards allowed per game skyrocketing to 130. And this was against a #18 defense. USC at this point of the year is allowing 165 rushing yards per game. Zach Moss has probably never been so excited for an away game.
I expect Utah to put up a reasonable amount of points, even while taking a conservative approach and racking up a couple hundred on the ground. Despite believing Utah will put up points and win decisively, I am wary of the O/U. It’s hard to tell if USC’s Slovis can run for his life enough to extend drives and put up a covering amount worth of points. And don’t be shocked if we see a bunch of FG’s from USC.
This game comes down to basic, old school football. Run the ball down their throat and have a damn good defense, which is what Utah was all about when they defeated BYU 30-12. I just don’t see Utah letting USC have the ball enough this game to put up any sort of decent numbers or compete.
If the defensive line and overall defensive match-up isn’t enough to convince you of a spread covering victory, then refer to the rushing game and the drastic skill level difference in USC and BYU. Think of how special of a game Zach Moss could have.
I firmly believe Friday night Utah goes into Southern California and delivers the Trojans their first home loss while making history by obtaining their first win in LA Memorial Coliseum.
Pick- Utah -3.5
Louisville @ FSU (-6.5)
Just looking at the numbers it’s hard not to jump on the over for this game, which is set at 61. FSU’s QB Blackman has over 800 yards of passing this year through three games and this offense looked decent on the road against UVA last week.
With numbers like that you would think the run game must suffer at least a little. Nope. Cam Akers has by himself 387 rushing yards and the team totaling 413, including the negative 31 that Blackman has accrued in sacks.
This is a pretty high power offense despite their unimpressive 1- 2 record that includes two single digit losses to, at the time, top 25 teams (UVA still is). I’m not concerned that Louisville’s D held Notre Dame to only 35 points.
ND rushed the ball for 230 yards vs. passing for 193 and there were almost two 100-yard rushers (Jones Jr. 15/113 & Book 14/81). A team who rushes the ball 42 times suggests they were never threatened or concerned with losing that game. I don’t see Louisville slowing down FSU too much if at all.
FSU should be worried about the incoming Louisville offense though and a specific threat- the deep ball. Louisville has seven receivers with a double-digit average yard per catch with their most productive being TuTu Atwell. He personally averages over 20 YPC with his longest play going 62 yards.
You could argue that Louisville playing backup QB Malik Cunningham may cause concern for an over to hit but does a QBR of 196 sound concerning to you? In his first start he was 8/13 for 119 yards and 2 TDs while adding 46 yards on the ground.
Malik be like, “I don’t always throw, but when I do, I throw deep. Go long my friends.”
Even with the deep balls I don’t think this kid is going to turn it over either. He’s more prone to run than make an ill advised throw and that should keep FSU on their toes and probably ease off blitzes and certain pressures.
One pass over 30 yards and that sets Louisville up for their bread and butter- their RB tandem of Hawkins and Hall that have already combine for 87 attempts and 520 yards. Not to mention the two QBs combine for 40 attempts and 223 yards.
Boding well for the run game is the fact FSU just suffered a nice kick in the nuts to their defense, losing their Junior OLB Joshua Kaindoh for the year. At 6’7 260 you can imagine the literal big ass hole left in the defense that just recently surrendered 44 points to UL Monroe.
I’m going to go in the direction that FSU should cover the spread. Notre Dame could’ve been a much bigger blowout for Louisville had they not decided to run over 40 times. This is also Louisville’s first true road game, against a team that is desperate to win.
A conference single digit loss on the road is going to have FSU coming out of the gate swinging fast and hard. Taggart did throw Briles under the bus after the loss to UVA and that is slightly concerning but not enough to take me off this game.
FSU was beating UVA after three quarters before melting down, but I think they will bounce back and get rolling this week at home against Louisville.
Pick- FSU -6.5
Lean – FSU/LOU over 61
UCF (-11) @ Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has played tough against decent teams, but I think that’s more of a discredit to Pitt’s opponent’s performance rather than to Pittsburgh’s skill level. They rank 99th in offense this year out of 130 FBS teams. But then again, Penn State ranks 45th in offensive production so far and Pitt held them to 17 points.
With a defense that continues to impress and an offense that continues to disappoint I’m leaning on taking the under in this game and hope that the road narrative plays out for UCF.
The Panther’s highest scoring game so far this year has been against Ohio where they put up 20. True fans of this great game know Ohio is a pretty solid G5 team. You might ask, well whom else have they played?
That’d be the University of Virginia and Penn State. Too pretty damn good football teams. It’s a shame too, because Pitts D has been pretty impressive thus far. I mean, they held Penn State to 17, but the offense couldn’t return more than one TD as a favor.
UCF is going up against a Pittsburgh team desperate for a win at home, with a point deficit in losses close enough to make you think those games could have went either way barring variance. I think that goes to show that Pitt can hang for a little while, defensively, but Pitts 59th ranked defense is no match for UCF’s 5th ranked offense.
However, the Panther defense will hold the title of the best one UCF has seen this season and it just so happens to come in an away game.
I do believe UCF will win this game. They always come out with the big dick energy trying to prove they belong with the big boys in the SEC. But they are traveling north to play at Heinz field where the wind is strong, and the grass is tall.
If you watched any of the UCF-Stanford game, you probably noticed how many deep balls UCF connected on. I think the traveling, potential wind coming off those rivers, and the tall grass could slow UCF down enough for this under to hit.