Utah Utes vs USC Trojans (12/2 @ 8:00 PM EST)
Spread: USC -3
Money Line: Utah +130 / USC -150
Overview and Betting Info
The Utah Utes (9-3) will take on the USC Trojans (11-1) in Las Vegas Friday night for the Pac 12 Conference Championship Game. USC leads the overall series 12-8, but the Utes have won the past two matchups. Utah’s playoff hopes have ended, but USC will likely be in with a win on Friday.
Utah is 7-5 against the spread this season and has covered three of their last four games. They have gone over the total six times this season but have gone under in four of their previous five games.
USC is 8-4 against the spread and has covered their last three games. The Trojans have gone over the total nine times this season, including their last six games.
The Utes offense is averaging 467.7 yards and 39.6 points per game. They are led by dual-threat quarterback Cameron Rising, who has been fantastic through the air and on the ground. He has 2,629 passing yards, 391 rush yards, and a combined 28 touchdowns. He torched USC earlier this season, going for over 475 combined yards and five touchdowns. He relies heavily on his top two receiving threats, tight end Dalton Kincaid (850 yards, 8 TDs) and receiver Devaughn Vele (595 yards, 5 TD). Keep an eye on the Rising-Kincaid connection, as they went for 234 yards and a touchdown against USC earlier this year.
The Utes lost lead running back Tavion Thomas, who has left the program after a toe injury to focus on the NFL. The Utes will turn to a committee of Micah Bernard (386 yards, 3 TD) and Jaylon Glovers (360 yards, 3 TD). Both have shown promise, and Bernard has been a reliable receiver as well. The loss of Thomas (687 yards, 7 TDs) will be felt, but this USC defense is vulnerable against the run, so Bernard and Glover may have a chance to break out.
The Utah defense has been the best in the PAC 12 this season, leading the conference with 317.5 yards and 20.1 points allowed per game. They struggled against USC earlier this season, allowing 42 points, but they have been better since. That includes holding a dangerous Oregon offense to just 20 points. Defensive back Clark Phillips III leads all FBS players with six interceptions, two of which he returned for a touchdown. He joins linebacker Karene Reid (5 sacks) and defensive end Van Fillinger (4 sacks) to lead this impressive defense. They played well enough to beat USC in the regular season, so expect to see some changes heading into Friday.
The USC offense ranks third in FBS with 506.6 yards and 42.5 points per game. They are led by Heisman Trophy favorite Caleb Williams. The quarterback has been sensational this season and is second in FBS with 3,712 passing yards and first with 34 touchdowns. Williams can run, too, with 351 yards and ten touchdowns on the ground. He’s been getting better as of late, scoring a combined 17 touchdowns over his last four games. The quarterback is helped by a deep receiving corps led by Jordan Addison. The receiver leads the team with 810 yards and eight touchdowns, with Tahj Washington (583 yards, 5 TD) and Mario Williams (545, 4 TDs) also playing well. Keep an eye on Washington in particular, as he has five touchdowns in his last five games.
The Trojans lost started running back Travis Dye a few weeks ago, but Austin Jones has been stellar filling in. In his two starts, he has 274 yards and two touchdowns (against UCLA and ND). Jones has dominated carries in both of those starts and should continue to do so on Friday. The back saw just 4 carries when they played the Utes a couple of times, so we’ll see how he holds up against this talented Utah defense.
On defense, the Trojans are allowing 405.3 yards and 26.3 points per game. They’ve been exposed by the PAC 12’s top offenses, including giving up 43 to Utah earlier this season. Despite the poor numbers for yardage and points, the Trojans do have two of the top defensive playmakers in college football in Tuli Tuipulotu and Calen Bullock. Tuipulotu leads all FBS with 12.5 sacks, while Bullock is second in FBS with five interceptions. The unit’s ability to generate turnovers is what has kept them in games, and we expect to see it at least once on Friday.
Free Pick: USC -3
While Utah won their first matchup, they were at home, where they have one of the most significant advantages in the nation. It’s been a different story when they are on the road, where they suffered all three losses. As good as the Ute’s defense is, they were dominated by Caleb Williams earlier this year, and he appears to be even better now. On the other side, the Trojans will be game-planning to stop the Rising-Kincaid connection and we see it paying off. We expect a ton of points here, but the Trojan’s offensive firepower is ultimately too much for Rising and Utah to match.
We’re giving up the three points to roll with the Trojans on Friday.