The No. 18 Arizona State Sun Devils (5-1, 3-0 in Pac-12) visits the Utah Utes (3-2, 2-0) for their Week 7 Pac-12 showdown Saturday. The COVID-altered 2020 schedule forced Arizona State-Utah to skip last year’s meeting. However, Utah squashed Arizona State 21-3 in 2019 to end a two-game losing streak to the Sun Devils.
Arizona State is on a three-game winning streak, which included victories of at least 18 points over the Stanford Cardinal last weekend, at the UCLA Bruins in Week 5, and vs. the Colorado Buffaloes Sept. 25. The Sun Devils are 3-3 against the spread (ATS) and 2-4 Over/Under (O/U) with the 87th-toughest schedule of opponents, according to USA TODAY’s Jeff Sagarin.
Utah has won two straight games at the USC Trojans this past Saturday and vs. the Washington State Cougars in Week 4. The Utes’ current win streak is on the heels of back-to-back losses at the San Diego State Aztecs and No. 19 BYU Cougars. Utah is just 1-4 ATS and 3-2 O/U, but its strength of schedule ranks 31st (according to USA TODAY).
- Opening Line: Arizona State -2
- Current Line: Pick’ Em
- Over/Under: 51.5
- Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium
- Start Time: Saturday, October 16, 2021, 10:00 p.m. ET
Arizona State hired head coach Herm Edwards in 2018. Since then, the Sun Devils have been second in cover rate vs. Pac-12 competition (behind Utah) at 14-11 ATS and 9-7 ATS on the road. Also, Arizona State has covered five straight conference games. However, the Sun Devils have covered just two of their last seven games vs. the Utes.
Kyle Whittingham succeeded Urban Meyer for Utah’s head coaching gig back in 2005. In the Whittingham era, the Utes have covered 54.8% of their home games (51-42-4 ATS), 51.6% of their games vs. ranked teams (16-15-1 ATS), and 54.1% of their Pac-12 games (73-62-3 ATS).
Even though there’s more action and cash on Arizona State covering (according to Pregame.com), Utah has gone from a 2-point home underdog to being even-money vs. the Sun Devils. On the other hand, the total has only moved a half-point from the 51.5-point opener despite roughly 70% of the action being on the Over (according to Pregame.com).
I think Arizona State has taken Utah’s usual title of “Most Underrated Pac-12 Team,” and there’s still some value in betting the Sun Devils. For instance, Arizona State ranks 18th in the AP Poll but grades out better in advanced analytics. Arizona State ranks ninth in net drive efficiency, 11th in net points per drive, and seventh in net points per play (according to Football Outsiders).
Furthermore, the Sun Devils are ninth in non-garbage time offensive predicted points added (PPA) and non-garbage time offensive success rate. Also, Arizona State has higher PPA, yards per play, Havoc rate, third-down conversion rate, and red-zone scoring rate differentials. Ultimately, the Sun Devils rank higher in basic and advanced stats and have more balance on both sides of the ball.
Not only that, but I’m buying stock in Herm Edwards as Arizona State’s head coach. The Pac-12 is the weakest of the Power 5 conferences, and the New York Jets made the postseason in three of Edwards’ five seasons as head coach from 2001-06. If Edwards can get the Jets to the playoffs at the start of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, he can certainly make Arizona State a Pac-12 contender.
PICK: Arizona State ML (-110 on BetMGM)
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