Cal - Utah Saturday Night Preview

WAIT A SECOND...HOW DID CALIFORNIA/UTAH BECOME THE TOP PRIME TIME TV ATTRACTION?!

You know it's a strange year in college football when a game matching California and Utah represents the best "rankings" affair that prime time has to offer! California, a recent doormat in college football has used a big play offense and a soft schedule to temporarily surge into the Top 25. Utah has used a road blowout of fading Oregon to rise all the way up to an inexplicable #5!

A month from now...this could very easily have been unranked California visiting #20 Utah. But, for now...it's the best of the Saturday night slate. And, it could conceivably be featuring teams who are going to matter the rest of the season. Maybe Cal really is getting things figured out in the Sonny Dykes era. Maybe Utah really is the class of the Pac 12 South. That season opening win over Michigan sure looks better now than it did at the time.

Let's run through JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats to see if we can figure out if those rankings are an illusion or not...

Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
California: 5-0 (#94 schedule according to Sagarin, weak!)
Utah: 4-0 (#17 ranked schedule according to Sagarin, including Michigan and Oregon)

California is the much more likely of the two teams to be an illusion. They needed Texas to miss a late extra point to avoid overtime. They had to sweat the Washington game despite winning stats rather dramatically...and then had to sweat Washington State! Of the two undefeated performances, Utah's is the more impressive thus far by a wide margin. Utah has always been capable of rising up and having a big performance. The issue has been maintaining quality through a full season with a "grinder" approach that can play down to its competition. That could actually come into play here if they don't respect Cal.

2014 Yards-Per-Play
California: 6.7 on offense, 5.5 on defense
Utah: 5.5 on offense, 5.5 on defense

It's a surprise that Cal's defense grades out this well. That's a reflection of their soft schedule. You saw how easily Texas moved on them in the second half...and the Texas offense has been pretty horrific ever since (cheap points were on the board in the Okie State loss for the Horns). Utah's break even-differential has several components. Tough schedule (Michigan's defense has been historically great this year by the way), starting quarterback Travis Wilson missing some time, and their offensive approach that tends to run clock rather than go for big plays. Again...that helps them hang with better teams, but keeps lesser teams hanging around them.

2014 Turnover Differential
California: +8
Utah: +7

Wow...great stuff for both teams. We'll say this...Cal IS legit if they can stay on the plus side of turnover differential for a full season. The problem with a high octane offense is always the potential for turnover debacles. Cal hasn't had to worry about that with a soft schedule. THIS is the game where they have to worry about it...at a notoriously tough site for visiting teams to execute (crowd and altitude). Utah has always played the percentages. There's a good chance that a Utah cover here would be due to turnovers rather than raw yardage.

2014 Market Performance
California: 3-2 ATS
Utah: 3-1 ATS

Both teams have been underrated...and are a composite 67% vs. market expectations so far. Utah's non-cover was a 10-point win as an 11-point dog against Utah State. Cal's failures came at Texas where they blew a big second half lead, and then as a home favorite vs. Washington State where they only won by six laying -16.5. Obviously this is Cal's first underdog spot of the season. Are they ready for a tough challenge?

Quarterback
California: Jared Goff (125-178-4-1630 with 15 TDs)
Utah: Travis Wilson (51-75-1-513 with 4 TDs)

You could argue that everything rides on the passing arm of Jared Goff. If he avoids turnovers and has his usual passing game, Cal can win this game outright. But, if he forces too many things and is turnover prone...then Utah runs away and hides with cheap points. Wilson is much more of a known quantity in that you're going to get generic low-impact production from him. This gamer spins on Goff's wheel of fortune.

Current Line: Utah by 7, total of 61.5

This game has centered around Utah -7 most of the week. Though, more stores are settling at -7.5 here late in the week. You could say that the Cal money is happy to see +7.5, and that the Utah money will pounce on -6.5 (which appeared for a short time at a few spots) and happily take -7.

Who should YOU happily take? JIM HURLEY won't force a play here just because a game is on TV. But, if he finds a big edge for his clients...you can take that edge to the bank! You can purchase the final word for Saturday's full college slate right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended football service and October's baseball playoff actioni, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Take care of that Friday during normal business hours, or Saturday before the first games kick off.

We return to the NFL for the next few reports here in the NOTEBOOK...

Sunday: NFL TV Preview...San Francisco at the NY Giants
Monday: NFL TV Preview...Pittsburgh at San Diego
Midweek: NFL TV Preview...Atlanta at New Orleans
Friday-Saturday: College Football TV Preview...Alabama at Texas A&M

Is Cal/Utah a battle of pretenders, or a sign of the changing of the guard in Pac 12 football? JIM HURLEY is the man with the answers...which means JIM HURLEY is the man who makes sure YOU GET THE MONEY!

20
Aug

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