Pac-12 Football Picks: Predictions against the spread for Week 1

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Nov 22, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes running back Devontae Booker (23) runs with the ball during the first half against the Arizona Wildcats at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Wolverines At Utah Utes

Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah

The Line: Utah -3

I am fascinated by this game, and not just because it is the debut of new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. This contest features one of the best defenses in all of college football in the Utes, but last year Utah also had one of the worst offenses in the conference. Utah was second in total defense, at just 393.5 yards per game, but finished eighth in scoring defense, 31.3 points.

How is that even possible considering that the number one team in total defense, Stanford, was also No. 1 in scoring defense (16.4 points)?

The answer, of course, was a putrid offense finishing last in total yards at just 388.1 per game. That poor performance was entirely the fault of Utah quarterbacks, who combined to throw for just 197.7 yards per game. If the Utes had even a half-decent player under center, they would have been playing in the conference championship game. Catch this game on Fox Sports 1, at 4:30PM, Pacific time, on Thursday.

Keys To The game:

Have the Utes improved at all at quarterback? I was shocked to see that Travis Wilson was named the starter for the Utes. Wilson’s numbers might not look that bad, but against quality competition he cratered. Utes fans will have to hope that his experience has taught him well and he can lead this offense to more touchdowns and fewer three and outs.

Fans will also have to hope that the defense, which was so stingy with their yards, can keep teams out of the end zone as well. On the other side, it will be interesting to see how quickly the Wolverines take to Harbaugh’s physical brand of offense, especially going up against an equally physical Utes defense.

The Prediction:

Everyone will be watching Harbaugh, but I think the other sideline is the more interesting one. Will Utah stick with Wilson, even if he struggles? Can the Utah defense hold up against the Michigan running game? I think Utah will prove their doubters wrong, in this game at least, with a dominating victory raining on the parade of Wolverine fans. Watch the Utes destroy Michigan, 24-3, in what will be the most talked about game come Monday morning.

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