NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET
|Legion Field Stadium, Birmingham, Alabama|
Our Pick: UTAH Utah at 10.5 (-108). Claim your $5,000 risk-free bet at Caesars Sportsbook!
Certain stars have aligned for this unusual prognostication. It is rare for us to offer two opinions in the same game, but that’s what all signs point to for this Pac-12 tilt in Salt Lake City.
At home, as an underdog of 8½ points, Wazzu completely fell apart last week in a 45-14 defeat to a USC squad playing with a new interim coach. The league has sustained many black eyes over the past couple of weeks, and that was a big one.
The Utes, meanwhile, were busy in a zany dust-up at the old Home Depot Center, a futebol pitch that San Diego State is calling home, till its new stadium is built, for a second consecutive season.
And for a second consecutive week, the Aztecs upended a Pac-12 team, giving Utah a round-house hook in three overtimes, 33-31. The Utes are ornery. The Cougars went to Utah a year ago and lost, 45-28, and that’s exactly what we envision here.
Washington State Cougars
After three home games to start the season, Wazzu finally hits the road, in a city where it has lost two consecutive games. Last season was particularly stinging, since Utah blasted the Cougars, 38-0, in the second half.
In Season Two, they’re still trying to figure out coach Nick Rolovich’s funky run-n-shoot power running attack. The word from camp was that they were having fun, were cohesive and were getting the nuances of that offense.
The first three games, though, were underwhelming, with the only victory coming against lower-level Portland State. One oddsmaker has Washington State winning only one more game this season, against Arizona in late November.
And that’s with a healthy Jayden de Laura at quarterback. The sophomore was a dropped pass from giving Washington State a 21-0 advantage on the Trojans. But he left at the half with a left-knee injury. He returned wearing a brace but did not play.
For the fourth time in seven games under Rolovich, the Cougars let a double-digit lead get away from them in a loss. That, of course, happened last year in Salt Lake City.
Victor Gabalis and Cammon Cooper failed in relief against the Trojans. Super Senior Jarrett Guarantano, a Tennessee transfer, also will be available against the Utes.
Even if de Laura starts, though, he doesn’t figure to be 100 percent. That’s a lot of uncertainty at the key position for the Cougars’ first road game. And that spells trouble.
Washington State At Utah Full Sportsbook Odds
On defense, Wazzu’s pass defense has been its weak link. It allows 312 aerial yards a game, which is among the bottom 15 in the nation.
This is a must-win game for Utah. Otherwise, chatter involving the possibility of Utah’s first losing season in eight years will be imminent.
It will behoove the Utes to dominate the air. Monday, 17th-year coach Kyle Whittingham played coy with reporters when asked who will start at quarterback against Washington State.
“We have a solid idea of what we’re going to do, but we won’t make any official announcement,” Whittingham was quoted in the Deseret News. “You’ll see him trot out there Saturday.”
Fifth-year senior Charlie Brewer had been the starter, but fourth-year junior Cameron Rising took over at SDSU when the Utes trailed, 24-10. He guided Utah two TDs in the final five minutes, and the wild, eventual defeat in triple OT.
Tuesday, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Brewer, who had transferred to Utah from Baylor, settled the matter by leaving the program. No doubt he knew Rising (6-2, 220) had been tapped to start against the Cougars.
Rising will thrive against this questionable Wazzu secondary.
Sports Betting Recommendation
Utah allows 10.5 yards per point to opponents, a bottom-10 figure in the land. That should fuel bushels of points being scored, which is why we favor the Over.
But we also like Utah in a rout because of what happened a year ago between these two, in this stadium, the fact that Wazzu is on the road for the first time this season and because it has quarterback questions.
As for Utah’s issues behind center, it no longer has them after Brewer bolted from the program Tuesday. Rising is, well, the rising star, and he will torch this porous Cougars secondary. Utah gets the convincing victory it so desperately seeks.
We suggest two separate wagers, one as insurance against the other. With some bounces the Utes’ way, both will cash.