Utah USC Saturday Preview
IT'S THE PERFECT TIME FOR UTAH TO PROVE THEY DESERVE A SPOT IN CHAMPIONSHIP DISCUSSION
The college football world still isn't sure what to make of the Utah Utes. The AP poll has them #3 in the country...but that's kind of by default because the team is undefeated and was fortunate to face their toughest opponents so far at home. Would they be unblemished if they had to face Michigan and California on the road? Maybe. If the current top 10 had to play a round robin against each other...would Utah finish third?
Saturday night on FOX, the Utes will be facing USC on the road. Even though the Trojans are just 3-3 this season...they are still seen by many as one of the most talented teams in the nation. Winning in TROY would shut up the critics. And, it would shut up many in Vegas who believe that USC is still the better team!
Utah/USC is one of the most debated games in years because we've NEVER seen a #3 team as an underdog of more than a field goal to an UNRANKED opponent. How can there be this big a disconnect? Who's wrong?
Normally, you'd assume the sportswriters because of their long term track record. But, oddsmakers and professional bettors have had so many misreads in college football the past few seasons (ask Alabama and Oregon about how much they were favored over Ohio State by last season!) that it's possible USC is about to get exposed as a national pretender for the fourth time in the last five weeks. The market was already way off the mark in USC's losses to Stanford and Washington...and was overly optimistic about the Trojans in South Bend a week ago.
Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats can contribute to the discussion...
Won-Lost Records (Overall, and in Pac 12)
Utah: 6-0 (3-0, sweeping Oregon, Cal, and Arizona State)
USC: 3-3 (1-2, with losses to Stanford and Washington)
Utah is up two games in the loss-column over the rest of the Pac 12 South. They can virtually wrap up the division already with a victory Saturday night. USC needs to win out (which would mean also beating UCLA) to have any shot at the division. Possible after the coaching change...but a tall task for a team in turmoil. You already know that USC's third loss was to Notre Dame in a non-conference affair.
Utah: 5.6 on offense, 5.3 on defense
USC: 7.5 on offense, 5.4 on defense
This is why the marketplace things USC is the superior team (laying more than the value of home field advantage...and the number keeps going UP!). Versus comparably difficult schedules, Utah is only +0.3 in yards-per-play differential, while USC is a whopping +2.1. Now, it's important to remember that Utah is a grinder that plays the percentage game. They don't win stat blowouts. And, USC runs up the score on bad teams...which is what they did in their first two home games. You longtime readers know that the percentage team can win games like this with ball control. Can Utah pull that off Saturday night?
2014 Turnover Differential
This is what we mean about the percentage game. Utah doesn't turn the ball over much on offense. Their defense is opportunistic against opponents trying to play catch up or who are forced to pass. This is how you turn an unimpressive YPP differential into a #3 national ranking. Very clearly...USC must avoid turnovers to win...and will lose if they cough the ball up at least three times. Laying points with USC means you think their high-risk offense will avoid mistakes.
2014 Market Performance
Utah: 4-2 ATS
USC: 3-3 ATS
USC covers easily when they win (Arkansas State, Idaho, and Arizona State), but misses the mark badly when they implode. Utah was underrated to start the season...but they have failed to meet expectations a couple of times.
Utah: Travis Wilson (93-137-3-980 with 7 TDs)
USC: Cody Kessler (135-197-5-1818 with 17 TDs)
Kessler has a lot more big play potential, and great weaponry to throw to. That's why he has 10 more TD passes (also Wilson missed some time with an injury). It's important to remember that Wilson will become turnover prone if he has to play from behind. Wilson is clean as a game manager, but not in catch-up mode. Getting an early lead is important for either team.
Current Line: USC by 4, total of 60
The market is telling you that USC is the better team, and that the rankings are virtually meaningless. But, the stat sheet is telling you that USC runs up the score vs. weaklings or any opponent that is giving away cheap points. Utah's no weakling. And, Utah is far from certain to fall apart the way Arizona State did against the Trojans. Take your shot! Do you want the grinders who can play the percentages...or the "more talented" team that struggled so badly defensively against both Stanford and Notre Dame?
JIM HURLEY has been studying his computer simulations carefully. He's aware of the volatility. Has he found an edge worth playing? Only paying customers will find out!
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 the rest of baseball's playoffs, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
Back to the NFL the next few days...with some clear playoff contenders in the mix...
Sunday: NFL TV Preview... Philadelphia at Carolina
Monday: NFL TV Preview... Baltimore at Arizona
Midweek: NFL TV Preview...Miami at New England
Friday-Saturday: College Football TV Preview...to be determined.
Can Carolina and Arizona make a serious run at Green Bay in the NFC? Will Philadelphia's offense ever get things figured out? Will New England ever lose focus and stub its toe? Plenty to talk about in the coming days in the NFL.
For now...the game everyone's talking about will soon be answering important questions about the polling system and the betting market place. The man who's always on top of the industry will make sure you GET THE MONEY when everyone else gets the message!
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