Utah was the chic choice to win the Pac-12 South in 2019, and sometimes the fashionable pick actually comes through. Their first division championship in the conference came despite a 30-23 loss at USC in September, but this time the game will be in the Mountain Time Zone, and what the Utes lost in talent from a memorable campaign last year might be made up for in being on home turf.
USC Trojans vs. Utah Utes
When and where
Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT
Why the line is what it is
The downside of USC having so many pregame lines available is we’re running out of Clay Helton jokes. We’d ask Helton to find us some help to write more, but he can’t recruit anyone with talent apparently.
A quarterback battle between former-starter-before-injury JT Daniels and revelation Kedon Slovis will have to play out during fall camp, as Daniels would have still been recovering during spring practice anyway before cancellation.
Slovis saved Helton’s job last year with 3,502 yards and 30 TD’s after Daniels went down in Week 1, while setting an NCAA freshman record with a 71.9% completion rate. He’ll have a deep backfield with guys like Markese Stepp and Stephen Carr, and Amon-Ra St. Brown out wide as a valuable target.
But is there the depth needed to get through an entire season? This is where USC’s recent recruiting woes could hurt.
Utah brings back most of their dominant offensive line from last season, but won’t have graduated superstars Zack Moss and Tyler Huntley. They lost this game 30-23 in LA last year, which likely saved Clay Helton’s job in Week 4. But this time they’ll have The MUSS and a terrific home field advantage behind them. Kyle Wittingham has the Utes playing run first football, and their balance last season made them the division champions — they finished 16th both offensively and defensively in SP+ in 2019.
Why it might change
USC was 60th on defense by SP+ last year. That’s not good enough, but this is also one of the brightest brands in college sports with the brightest lights of Tinseltown behind it. . If USC can add players in the portal defensively, they’ll have a chance to compete at a high level next season.
Where the value is now
South Carolina transfer Jake Bentley is the likely starting quarterback for UU, he of 33 starts in the SEC under Will Muschamp’s cro-magnon offense. And yet someone still wanted him, which means he’s probably good. Utah has enough skill talent to make plays here, so take the points at home. But if Bentley can’t get on track early, or USC ends up getting the most out of a veteran team, don’t be afraid to pull the ripcord earlier in the season and hedge this back.
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