The Daily Sweat: USC is favored over Utah to win the Pac-12 title and make the playoff

USC’s playoff scenario is simple. A win on Friday night means the Trojans are part of the College Football Playoff.

No. 4 USC enters Friday night’s Pac-12 title game (8 p.m. ET, Fox) as 2.5-point favorites over Utah in Las Vegas. This is the same Utah team that handed USC its only loss of the season in a 43-42 thriller in Salt Lake City. Utah QB Cam Rising threw for 415 yards and two TDs and ran for three other scores as the Utes went for two and the lead with 48 seconds to go after Rising scored on a one-yard run.

The Trojans are favored on Friday night because there’s a decent reason to believe things will be different this time around. While Utah running back Tavion Thomas had just eight carries for 28 yards in October, he’s unavailable on Friday night as he’s recovering from an injury and prepping for the NFL draft.

Utah TE Dalton Kincaid can’t also have 16 catches again, right? Kincaid was just flat dominant in Utah’s win with 234 yards. No other Utah player had more than five catches and just one USC player had more than four catches.

USC defensive back Calen Bullock (7) celebrates along with defensive lineman Stanley Ta'ufo'ou, right, after intercepting a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
USC is a 2.5-point favorite in its rematch against Utah. If the Trojans win, they're heading to the College Football Playoff. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Caleb Williams was also phenomenal in that game. The likely Heisman winner threw for 381 yards and five touchdowns and also rushed eight times for 57 yards. Another performance like that — in a win, this time — will make it nearly impossible for anyone else to win the award.

We think USC is the right side on Friday night, even if there’s still legitimate questions about the team’s defense. If USC can force a couple turnovers in this one it’s hard to see how the Trojans will lose. And the Pac-12 won’t be unhappy with a USC win either. With a victory, the Trojans are in line to be the first playoff team from the conference since 2016.

UTSA favored by 8.5

The other conference title game on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN) is also a regular-season rematch. UTSA hosts North Texas as an 8.5-point favorite as the Roadrunners go for back-to-back Conference USA titles before heading to the AAC.

UTSA has been the best team in the conference all season and went undefeated in C-USA play. No other team lost fewer than two games. UTSA also enters the game on a nine-game win streak after losing to Houston and Texas in the first three weeks of the season.

North Texas hung tough with UTSA during the regular season, however. The Mean Green lost 31-27 to UTSA as the teams combined for 35 of their 58 points in the fourth quarter.

There’s also one other college football game if you’re really needing to scratch your football itch. Buffalo hosts Akron (1 p.m, ET, ESPN+) in a game that was rescheduled because of the massive snowstorm that hit Buffalo a couple weeks ago. The Bulls are 11.5-point favorites. Akron, meanwhile, is looking for its third win of the season. The Zips’ preseason win total was 2.5.

Group play wraps up in the World Cup

Friday is the final day of group play at the 2022 World Cup as the field is officially cut from 32 to 16. Brazil and Portugal have already moved on to the Round of 16 and are playing to win their groups. Here’s what you need to know to bet those games.

11 NBA games

After Detroit vs. Dallas was the only game on the NBA schedule on Thursday night, there are 11 games on Friday. The ESPN slate includes the Lakers at the Bucks and the Bulls at the Warriors. Milwaukee is an 8.5-point favorite, while Golden State is a 7.5-point favorite. The closest spreads on the schedule are in Brooklyn and Atlanta. The Nets are 1.5-point favorites over the Raptors while the Hawks are 2.5-point underdogs to the Nuggets.

Who cashed tickets Thursday?

The Buffalo Bills covered easily as 3.5-point favorites in a 24-10 win over the New England Patriots. At least New England forced Buffalo to punt on Thursday night.

The Pistons covered in their overtime win over Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, and there was some money to be made betting the World Cup. We were all over Morocco +210 to win Group F along with a win over Canada at +110. Both of those bets hit. Hopefully you were able to parlay them.