By Marc Lawrence — COLLEGE GRID: Utah over Southern Cal by 6 — USC head coach Lincoln Riley’s “To the top in LA after leaving Norman in ruins” season continues with the Trojans locked into the No. 4 spot in the current CFP rankings. At 12-1 ITS (In The Stats) this season, the men of Troy are one of only four FBS teams that won the stats in all – or all but one – game this season. The only stat loss came at the hands of these Utes in a 43-42 loss in which USC allowed a season-high 562 yards, one of three games where they would cough up more than 500 yards in a contest this year. The WOM jumps on the pile with this ditty: Same season avenging teams who allow 23.4 or more PPG in conference title games, coming off a season ending SUATS win, are just 6-12 SU and 5-13 ATS since 2000, including 3-9 SU and 1-11 ATS when coming off a win of more than 8 points. While Riley and USC were soaking up the media adulation over beating Notre Dame, Kyle Whittingham and his Utah team won their fifth in the last six games when they made buffalo jerky out of Colorado, 63-21, to close out the regular season 9-3. The Utes also arrive in Vegas tonight with a plethora (thanks, Howard Cosell) of solid ATS trends on their side, going 4-1 ATS of late after scoring 45+ points and 4-1 ATS as a dog versus Pac-12 revenge. No such luck for the Trojans, as they’re 1-5 ATS in this series when coming off a double-digit win and 1-7 ATS in their last 8 neutral-site contests. Utah also owns a slight edge in PPG differential, winning by +19.3 compared to USC’s +16.2. That’s where we hand it off to one of the most reliable NCAA head coaches in Whittingham, who supplies THE CLINCHER: Whittingham is 23-10 SU and 26-6-1 ATS versus foes coming off a win of more than 10 points who allow more than 21.5 PPG, including 16-2 SU and 17-1 ATS when Utah is coming off a win of 5 or more points. On a side bar note: be sure to check out USC QB Caleb Williams’ fingernails. He paints them before each game with ‘FU’ messages about each opponent, which goes hand in hand with the classless demeanor he brought to Los Angeles from Oklahoma.
Fresno State over BOISE STATE by 1
At 9-3 on the year, doesn’t it seem like Boise State should be generating a little more national interest like in days gone by? The simple answer is when you lose to UTEP, 48-20, as 16-point chalk – like the Broncos did earlier this season – your street cred is virtually nil. So, even though Boise clobbered Fresno this year, 40-20, we know that the wild horses are a whimpering 1-7 ATS after scoring 40 or more points, plus 1-4 ATS in Mountain West Conference title games. We also know that Fresno stands 4-0 ATS in MWC championship contests, with three of those tickets coming against the Broncos. And since BSU has won two straight against the west coasters, its poor 2-5 ATS record at home versus a foe seeking double revenge comes into play here against the Bulldogs’ outstanding 7-1-1 ATS record when playing with double revenge. We could go on but we’re busy trying to make sure the turf being shown on our TV is the correct shade of blue.
NY GIANTS over Washington by 3
Don’t look now but if the NFL playoffs kicked off this week all four teams in the NFC East would be in! That’s quite a swing from where they were just two seasons ago when nary a team the NFC ‘Least’ finished the campaign with a winning record. The Giants made a Thanksgiving Day stop in Dallas last week and though they led for most of the first half while limiting the Pokes’ offense, they needed a last-second touchdown to stay within single digits and cover the spread. Covering the number has become an every week occurrence for Washington, who enters this game having gone 6-0-1 ATS in its previous seven contests. However, it must be mentioned that Commanders’ QB Taylor Heinicke is a time bomb ready to blow up with tosses that have ‘pick’ written all over them. He survived against Atlanta last week despite going 14-of-23 for 138 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. And that was against one of the worst defenses in the league! New York can thank its lucky stars that the Giants have gone 11-2 ATS after a Thursday game while Washington is just 1-5 ATS when taking on a foe playing off a Thursday contest. In a divisional showdown with big implications, we’ll side with the G-Men over the C-Men this afternoon at MetLife Stadium.
LAS VEGAS over LA Chargers by 10
Safe to say the Raiders live and die by overtime. Las Vegas became the fi rst team to win on back-to-back overtime touchdowns since 2017 in last week’s 40-34 rush-off OT victory over Seattle. On the other side of the fi eld, like the Jaguars, the Chargers won their game last week with a successful two-point conversion with 0:15 seconds remaining at Arizona. Ironically, the Bolts had failed to score a touchdown in their previous 20 fourth-quarter possessions before finding the end zone twice (TD and 2-point conversion) in the game’s final 15 seconds. Now they head to Sin City sporting a 1-5 ATS record as division road chalk, as well as a 2-8 ATS ledger when coming off a spread loss and facing a foe off a spread win. The Black Patches return home with a lofty 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS mark in division games when coming off consecutive SU underdog wins. They are also 13-6 ATS the last nineteen games in this series when taking points, including 6-1 ATS at home. With the Chargers hobbled by the worst Yards Per Rush defense (5.4) in the league, and the Raiders offense gaining 5.2 Yards Per Rush, we have no other choice but to turn this over to THE CLINCHER: The Raiders are 11-4 ATS at home in the last fifteen division home games, including 7-1 SU and 8-0 ATS when hosting a foe not off a win of 3 or more points.