Our NCAAF handicapping professional examines Friday’s nationally televised rivalry game between Utah State & Utah. Read this revealing betting preview that concludes with his point spread pick.
State Bragging Rights at Stake
Utah will host Utah State this coming Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake. The opening kickoff is slated for 9:00 PM ET, and it will be televised by ESPN2. According to current (9/6) college football odds, Utah opened as a 12.0 point favorite, and there’s been no early movement at any of the major sportsbooks.
Aggies and Utes Renew Rivalry
This long standing rivalry took a brief sabbatical in 2014. When they met in 2013, Utah came away with a narrow 30-26 win in what was a highly entertaining game. The expected starting quarterbacks on Friday were a major part of that 2013 contest. Chuckie Keeton of Utah State accounted for 399 yards of total offense and 3 touchdowns. Utah’s Travis Wilson was 24 of 31 passing for 208 yards while rushing for another 53 yards and a score. Utah has gone 13-1 in the last fourteen games versus Utah State. The lone Aggies win in that sequence came in a 27-20 upset win at home in 2012.
Avoiding an Embarrassment in Season Opener
Utah State entered last Thursday’s season opener at home versus Southern Utah as a prohibitive 32.0 point favorite. They received a huge scare, and managed to barely escape with a 12-9 win over their FCS opponent. As a matter of fact, they needed an 88 yard punt return for a touchdown with four minutes leftin the 4th quarter in order to overcome a 9-5 deficit, and then held on while Aggies fans took a monumental exhale. They can thank their defense for turning in an excellent effort. The stop unit held Southern Utah to 160 yards of total offense, 9 first downs, and had 5 sacks. The Aggies failed to score an offensive touchdown for the first time since a 6-3 loss to BYU in 2012. They were only able to accumulate a meager 250 yards of total offense versus Southern Utah, and will need to me much better if they hope to have any chance of pulling off a road upset over a quality PAC-12 opponent.
Guarding Against a Letdown
Utah opened their season last Friday night in a nationally hyped game against the Michigan Wolverines. Former Stanford and San Francisco head man Jim Harbaugh returned to his alma mater and was making his coaching debut. In what was statistically a very even game, the Utes were able to come away with a 24-17 win, and cover as a 5.0 point favorite. Utah was able to take advantage of 3 interceptions thrown my Michigan’s Jake Ruddock, and one of those was returned for a second half touchdown that pushed the lead to 24-10. Michigan was able to score a touchdown with less than a minute to play, and their comeback hopes were snuffed out after Utah recovered the ensuing onside kick. It’s certainly a legitimate concern that the Utes may not be mentally sharp after defeating a Big Ten opponent, and especially after watching tape of a horrible performance by Utah State a week ago.
Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton was granted a fifth year of eligibility via a medical redshirt last February. He missed the last eleven games last of 2014, and the final eight contests in 2013 due to a ACL/MCL tear of his left knee suffered in 2013, and reinjured in last season’s third game of the year. Aggies fans are hoping for Keeton to display the form from 2012 when he accounted for 4352 yards of total offense and 35 touchdowns. If last week was any indication, there’s cause for concern. Keeton was a terrible 16-33 (48.5%) passing and had a paltry 7 yards rushing on six attempts. My educated prognostication is Keeton will be much better on Friday, and so will the rest of his offensive teammates. The Aggies defense is strong enough to hold their own against Utah, and I’m calling for a typical down to the wire rivalry contest. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see an outright upset, but I’ll take the points as an additional bonus for one of my early college football picks.
College Football Pick: Play on Utah State +12.