Weekly predictions: Utah, BYU face big challenges vs. USC, Arkansas this week
Utah must avoid turnovers, BYU has to get its offense on the field, and USU must maintain confidence and consistency
Can Arkansas tiptoe around and through BYU’s defense? Will USC’s Caleb Williams become the third deadly quarterback nightmare for Utah’s defense? Is Blake Anderson capable of continuing a remarkable turnaround for Utah State on the road in Fort Collins, Colorado?
These are the issues at hand in Utah’s FBS college football circles heading into Week 7.
Kyle Whittingham wasted no time in turning his attention to the Trojans after a loss at UCLA; USC is the last team in the Pac-12 to beat his club in Rice-Eccles Stadium. The defense of Utah’s South Division title is on the line.
Utah State had a remarkable game plan and executed it to perfection against the pesky Air Force Falcons in Logan last week. If the Aggies can go on the road now and beat Colorado State, it will give Anderson’s squad tremendous momentum heading into the meat of Mountain West Conference play.
USC at Utah
The Utes have enjoyed a tremendous home-field advantage in the Pac-12 since joining that Power Five league in 2011. It’s in this nest, this den of death for visitors, that Whittingham hopes to set a trap for USC and its famous Oklahoma QB transfer, Caleb Williams. Utah has won 11 straight at home, the last loss was in 2020 to the Trojans.
Utah’s defense will be the best USC has faced so far in league play, and defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley will have his hands full with Williams and a receiving corps many believe is the best in the league.
Thing is, USC’s weakness may be in the trenches on both sides of the ball, a strength for the Utes. If Cam Rising can establish Tavion Thomas and the threat of a run, he should be able to pilot the Utes to a lot of points on the home turf. He will need to, because USC is capable of big plays. The difference in this big showdown will be turnovers; it’s what cost Utah the UCLA game. USC has the edge in turnovers gained/lost at +14 to Utah’s +7.
Arkansas at BYU
Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders had 22 carries for 101 yards in a loss against Alabama, a team that has the best defensive linemen in college football. So it goes without saying, but we’re saying it, he’s going to get his against BYU’s defense. Sanders and QB KJ Jefferson, a 6-foot-3 242-pound athlete, can both keep the chains moving and keep BYU’s offense on the sidelines — the recipe for beating the Cougars.
Arkansas ranks 11th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 233 yards per game. That is witchcraft for BYU’s defense.
On the other hand, BYU’s Jaren Hall has the receiver weapons to exploit the weakness of Arkansas’ secondary, which has struggled this season. Arkansas ranks 127th in pass defense, allowing 307 yards a game. But in order for BYU to take advantage, the Cougars will need the football, which Oregon, USU, Wyoming and Notre Dame proved can be kept in a lockbox through converting third downs.
This will be a fun game for the Cougars against a great traditional, tough team from the South.
Utah State at Colorado State
Watch out for Cooper Legas because he’s learning, getting the feel, coming into his own and making plays. This is why the Aggies beat Air Force last week, amassing 414 yards of offense against the Falcons, who like to hog the ball.
Legas passed for a career-high 215 yards and tied his career-high of two touchdowns. He also ran for another score as the Aggies snapped a four-game losing streak. Thing is, Legas completed 18 of 23 passes and ran for a career-high 76 yards on 13 carries.
The Rams will prove tough in the trenches, and Legas must stay healthy if USU is to build on this win streak.
Keys to victory
• Utah will need to win the turnover battle with USC.
• BYU needs Hall to pass for at least four touchdowns.
• USU needs to keep Legas healthy and upright.
This week’s picks
Mississippi State 28, Kentucky 27
Kansas 24, Oklahoma 21
Texas 34, Iowa State 31
Oklahoma 28, TCU 24
Michigan 33, Penn State 31
California 21, Colorado 14
Washington 38 Arizona 21
Alabama 42, Tennesse 38
Notre Dame 34, Stanford 21
Utah State 24, Colorado State 21
Washington State 27, Oregon State 24
Utah 28, USC 24
BYU 31, Arkansas 28
Last week: 11-4; overall 61-24 (.716)