The Utah Utes have dominated their rivalry against the Utah State Aggies by winning 21 of the last 24 matchups. The Aggies almost got caught looking ahead to this game with a major score from the Southern Utah Thunderbirds. The Utes dealt Jim Harbaugh his first loss as a khaki-clan Michigan Man on the sidelines. Rivalry games are fun and this one should fit the bill.
Utah State Aggies vs. Utah Utes
Date/Time: Friday, September 11, 9:00 pm ET
College Football Betting Favorite: Utah -14
It’s rare to see a two-touchdown spread in a game with a total in the mid-40s, but it’s probably warranted here after Utah State and Southern Utah combined to go 2-for-34 on third down in Week 1. The Utes did just enough offensively to beat Michigan, but a Justin Thomas pick six had a lot to do with the outcome. Can one of these two teams get the offense going this week?
Chuckie Keeton’s back! That means that all is well in Logan, right? Right?! Not so fast, my friend! The Aggies scored three offensive points in this game. They returned a PAT for two points and had a punt return touchdown that decided the game. The Aggies wound up with 250 total yards, committed 11 penalties for almost half of that yardage, and Keeton completed less than half of his passes (16/33). Returning top receivers JoJo Natson and Hunter Sharp were not active, as Natson was dismissed from the team and Sharp is suspended. It showed. The Aggies ran for four yards per carry, but one 39-yard scamper skewed the average.
Matt Wells has had a very solid defense here while building off of what Gary Andersen built. The Aggies have given up less than 20 points per game in each of the last three seasons and held the Thunderbirds to 163 yards in Week 1. New defensive coordinator Kevin Clune has a lot to work with, but there’s always concern going up against decent offenses with a new DC. Three of the top four leading tacklers from last season’s defense also moved on with their careers.
Are the Aggies going to drop off or was last week’s game just a bad situation with the big look-ahead spot to the Battle of the Brothers rivalry game? That’s the question that will be answered this week.
The Utes have the best player on the field in running back Devontae Booker, who was active in last week’s game. Booker had 29 offensive touches and only managed 124 yards and a touchdown, but the Michigan defense is a pretty solid unit overall. Travis Wilson was 24-of-33 for 208 yards and a pick, which was a little bit uncharacteristic since Wilson only threw five interceptions last season. Booker will once again be the focal point this week, maybe to a fault for Kyle Whittingham’s team. They’ll try to asset their dominance in the trenches and that means a steady diet of Booker. Wilson had 12 of the other 13 rushing attempts.
Dominique Hatfield, Utah’s top playmaker in the secondary, has been reinstated for this game. Michigan had significantly more success throwing the ball rather than running it, so Hatfield returns at a good time. The Utes are always tough and physical up front and that allows the linebackers to roam around and make tackles. Nate Orchard and Eric Rowe are big losses on defense, but leading tackler Jared Norris has a nose for the ball and led the team in TFL with nine.
In 2012, Utah was a TD road favorite and lost 27-20 in overtime. In 2013, they were favored by just 2.5 at home and won by five. These are competitive games and these two teams are a lot alike in how they are built from the trenches out. Which team is in better shape for this one?
Utah State Aggies vs. Utah Utes Free Pick: Utah State +14
Utah is undoubtedly the better team, but perception is getting the best of the market with this line. Utah State opened +11.5 and this line is flirting with reaching +14. The Aggies were terrible against an FCS opponent last week and people notice that type of thing. On the other hand, it was a clear look-ahead spot and now Matt Wells can adjust after seeing what his team is lacking.
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Good luck this season!