It's hard to believe it's Week 9, but here we are, rolling right into another weekend filled with pivotal games. Heading into the backend of the schedule gives me mixed feelings, but I have learned the best way to cope is to stay busy soaking it all in. Lucky for us that will be much easier next week with the return of MACtion. The betting opportunities will start every Tuesday, providing us with potential college football targets on the board daily through Saturday. So, in honor of the non-stop action that awaits us, let's give our bankroll a shot in the arm with Thursday night's board.
We will have to put the coffee on to sweat this one, but it will be worth it once it cashes. The 14th-ranked Utah Utes travel to Martin Stadium to take on the Washington State Cougars. Both teams are well-rested coming off their bye weeks, and we could see the best version of Utah after their big win over USC. So here is why I am laying the road chalk in Thursday night's Pac-12 matchup.
Utah (-7) at Washington State
Are you really living if you are not laying a touchdown on the road in the last game of the night? This is a spot where I think the home-field advantage for Washington State is being given too much credit in the market. Utah is the far superior offensive team, averaging 40.7 points per game and ranking ninth nationally in passing success rate.
The Cougars' defense does a nice job defending the run and bringing pressure, but Cam Rising's mobility will be the equalizer. He should be able to scorch Washington State's secondary, which allowed 428 yards passing to Oregon at home earlier this year. Many will point to the fact that Washington State covered against the Ducks, but the box score shows how fortunate it was to stay within the number. Oregon averaged 9.9 yards per pass against Washington State and outgained the Cougars by over 200 yards. If Oregon can gain 624 yards in Pullman, Utah will likely score 35-40 points as well.
Can the Cougars' offense keep pace in that type of game? I think it's going to be extremely difficult. Utah's biggest defensive weakness is that it is vulnerable against the run. Washington State averages only 82.2 rushing yards per game, ranking 124th among FBS teams and last in the Pac-12. In their last home game against Cal, the Cougars mustered only 2.9 yards per rush. They are a one-dimensional offense that gives the opposing defense free rein to tee off and rush the passer. That's why QB Cameron Ward has been sacked 26 times this season on 7.78% of his drop-backs (95th). Meanwhile, Utah ranks seventh overall in protecting Rising. So not only does Utah have a far superior offense, but it matches up very well against Washington State.
It's starting to look like the wheels are falling off for Washington State. The Cougars are coming off back-to-back losses to USC and Oregon State in which they failed to score more than 14 points in either contest. That won't cut it against Utah. The Utes scored 40-plus points against both those teams and embarrassed the Beavers 42-16. I expect Kyle Whittingham to have his team very motivated after fighting its way back into the Pac-12 race. Over the last decade, the Utes are 12-6-1 ATS after a bye and 4-2 since 2019. Washington State snuck up on some teams early in the season, but there is too much at stake this time of year. Utah covers this one comfortably by double digits.
Stats provided by: cfbstats and teamrankings.com.