Utah has an unblemished 6-0 record and rank of 3rd in the AP poll. They demolished Oregon 62-20, and their season opening win over Michigan looks better every week with the improvement of the Wolverines.
In contrast, USC is a mess. Their 3-3 record only tells part of their story. Coach Steve Sarkisian couldn’t stay sober on the job and got fired. Even when he was around, USC scored 12 points against Washington.
The Power Rank seems to agree that Utah should win. On my predictions page, I list the Utes as a 2.5 point favorite with a 57% win probability.
Not so fast on the Utah hype
However, this public prediction is based on team rankings that use the margin of victory in games to evaluate teams. I also do calculations based on yards per play, and this tells a different story about Utah.
Let’s look at how Utah has fared in terms of yards in their 6 games.
- Michigan, 355 yards on 4.9 yards per play. Utah, 337 yards on 4.8 yards per play.
- Utah State, 373 yards on 5.6 yards per play. Utah, 327 yards on 5.0 yards per play.
- Fresno State, 365 yards on 5.7 yards per play. Utah, 380 yards on 5.1 yards per play.
- Oregon, 400 yards on 5.7 yards per play. Utah, 530 yards on 7.2 yards per play.
- California, 467 yards on 6.2 yards per play. Utah, 435 yards on 5.7 yards per play.
- Arizona State, 257 yards on 3.7 yards per play. Utah, 369 yards on 5.5 yards per play.
Utah had a better efficiency than their opponent against only Oregon and Arizona State. Note that this evaluates their defense as well as offense since the defense determines yards allowed to the opponent.
Also, Utah gave up 5.7 yards per play to Fresno State, a terrible offense that ranks 124th of 128 teams in yards per play this season. Most of these yards probably came in garbage time, but that’s still embarrassing.
How Utah matches up with USC
Utah’s defense is solid but not elite. In my rankings that take yards per play and adjusts for schedule, Utah ranks 24th and will find it difficult against USC’s 9th ranked offense.
On offense, Utah’s Devontae Booker gets the headlines. However, he averages 4.9 yards per carry, more than 3 yards per carry less than LSU’s Leonard Fournette. Utah’s rush offense ranks a pedestrian 68th in yards per carry (numbers do not include sacks).
Utah’s 64th ranked offense is not explosive, and they’ll find life difficult against a talented USC defense ranked 36th.
Members of The Power Rank have access to my ensemble predictions that combine a number of different predictions, including calculations based on points per game and yards per play. This prediction favors USC by 3.2, suggesting no value for either team in the markets.
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