Despite entering tonight’s game with a 5-1 record, Utah remains one of the most underrated teams in the Pac-12 Conference (and in college football). The Utes own an impressive resume that includes road wins against Michigan (26-10), UCLA (30-28) and Oregon State (29-23), yet the betting market continues to undervalue Kyle Whittingham’s squad. Utah is off to its best start since 2010, and the Utes are a profitable 7-3 ATS in their last ten games as home underdogs. In fact, the Utes upset Pac-12 Conference rival Stanford at home last season, and I expect a similar result tonight against a very good USC team.
Utah is 2-1 at home this season where the Utes are averaging 47.3 points per game at 4.9 yards per rush play, 7.9 yards per pass play and 6.2 yards per play. Utah’s explosive attack is best evidenced by the fact that the Utes are averaging 10.6 yards per point this season, which is 2.2 yards per point better than average. The strength of Utah’s offense is its ground attack that is averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season, including 4.9 yards per carry over the last three games and 4.9 yards per carry at home.
While Utah’s offense is solid, the Utes’ success is predicated upon a very good stop unit that is allowing 21.7 points per game at 2.8 yards per rush play, 6.6 yards per pass play and 4.7 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 4.1 yards per rush attempt, 7.0 yards per pass attempt and 5.6 yards per play against a mediocre defense. Overall, Utah is 1.3 yards per rush play, 0.4 yards per pass play and 0.9 yards per play better than average defensively in 2014, which is good enough to slow down a a good (but not great) USC attack.
USC is averaging 35.6 points per game at 4.4 yards per rush play, 8.0 yards per pass play and 6.0 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 4.2 yards per rush play, 6.9 yards per pass attempt and 5.5 yards per play to a mediocre offensive squad. Overall, the Trojans’ offense is 0.5 yards per play better than average from the line of scrimmage, which ultimately gives Utah a decent 0.4 yards per play advantage over USC’s attack. Moreover, USC will quickly become a one-dimensional offense in light of the fact that the Utes possess a significant 1.1 yards per rush play advantage over the Trojans’ ground game.
I would be negligent for me not to acknowledge that USC’s defense, which is 0.5 yards per play better than average, possesses a 0.5 yards per play advantage over the Utes’ offense. In short, both teams are relatively even from the line of scrimmage when the other squad has the ball, but the Utes’ offense is significantly better at home whereas the Trojans’ defense is substantially worse on the road. Indeed, USC is allowing 24.3 points per game away from home this season on 464 total yards at 5.9 yards per play.
The biggest concern for USC is its run defense, which is yielding 219 yards at 5.4 yards per carry on the road, which plays into the Utes’ strength on offense. Utah is averaging an impressive 229 rush yards per game at home on 4.9 yards per carry. There is nothing I like more than investing on quality home underdogs with very good ground attacks, especially when they are matched up against a conference opponent and are playing with legitimate revenge.
From a technical standpoint, USC is a money-burning 6-14 ATS off a win, 4-12 ATS on the road and 2-8 ATS in road games versus teams with a winning record. Conversely, Utah is a profitable 5-0 ATS versus teams with a winning record and 7-3 ATS in its last ten home games versus teams with a winning record. In this Pac-12 Conference battle, take the live home underdog and invest with confidence.
College Football Pac-12 Conference Sports Pick: Utah (+1) (-110)