The Utah Utes have a nice cushy schedule in the sense that they get to open their first two games at home to start the season. They did have to fend off Michigan and Jim Harbaugh in his opener last week, which they ended up taking, 24-17. I feel like it was a close matchup that could have went either way despite the 7 point spread and late touchdown from Michigan. Give the Wolverines a competent quarterback and they win that game. Let’s give some credit to the Utah defense, they are a great unit, but there were some instances Wolverine QB Jake Rudock overthrew receivers, and made poor decisions resulting in multiple turnovers. I’m sure some nerves played a role in his play as well.
Playing for Jim Harbaugh in his debut can’t be easy. I do think we’ll see better quarterback play then we’ve seen at Michigan the last two seasons from Devin Gardner, but nothing I envision making them contenders in the Big-10. I do see Utah being threats in the Pac-12. Maybe not to win it all, but they are going to make some good teams sweat this season. Note that the Utes beat UCLA, USC, and Stanford last season, including Michigan on the road. They were also a play or two away from beating Oregon. I recall a crazy play in that game, in which the Utah runner celebrated and dropped the ball before crossing the goal line, Oregon picked it up and ran it back for 6. Ouch.
The Utah defense looked in fine form to start the season, picking Jake Rudock off for a total of 3 times. Defense is doing to be the key word for Utah this season, as they look to be one of the stronger units in the country.
Their opponents Friday night, interstate rival Utah State, are packing something on defense as well. They are always ready to come to play defensively and it has shown in recent years. The Utah State Aggies come into the season ranked 7th in total team defense. Should be a good one as we get an early season rivalry matchup. It isn’t Auburn vs. Alabama or anything, but this will do for week 2 on a Friday night.
Utah State Aggies vs. Utah Utes College Football Pick
Utah State +13.5(-110)
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
Utah State vs. Utah Pick:
On offense the Aggies will be relying on redshirt senior Chuckie Keeton. If you follow college football, I am sure you have heard his name mentioned around the water cooler. Okay, maybe not the water cooler, but maybe you’ve seen him if you watch a lot of college football. Keeton isn’t a guy coming in making his first start against a very good defense, Keeton knows this offense inside and out. He had a less than great debut in 2015 last week. Keeton passed for only 110 yards with an interception on 16-33 passing.
Utah State needed to rely on a late punt return to save themselves against Southern Utah. Keeton is a borderline NFL prospect, he needs a solid 2015 to make a case for a roster spot in the preseason next year. He has been the starter since 2011, passing for 11 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions in his freshman year. His 2013 year was his best yet, passing for 18 touchdowns and only 2 picks. Quite the ratio. Keeton was derailed last season by injury, a huge blow to what could have been his big shout out to the NFL. With Utah on deck and a poor start last week, Keeton has work to do.
The Utah Utes rely on quarterback Travis Wilson once again this season. He is a big kid with a 6’7” 223 pound frame. The NFL loves big QBs that can play from under center. Wilson fits that description. But Christian Hackenberg is a big guy that was originally looking like a first round NFL pick, he needs to grow tremendously this season. Wilson, though, is playing with house money. He didn’t come out of high school as a 5 star prospect. Wilson had a big 2014, passing for 18 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions.
They both have stellar defenses in front of them, so big game for both if they have hopes of impressing the NFL. Keeton needs to get his stuff together after losing 2014 and a porous start last week. I do think that the Aggies were looking ahead to this week. Conversely, the Utes might have a letdown after beating Michigan. This is way too many points for two superb defenses. The total is only 44, and catching 13.5 points on a team with a total that low is always a safe bet. I expect Utah State to look much better than last week. The look-a-head game is always tricky to navigate. Utah wins, but the Aggies keep it within 13 points.
PICK: UTAH STATE +13.5 (-110)