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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) warms up before the game against Idaho State at Rice-Eccles stadium Thursday August 28, 2014.
Utah Football: Vegas thinks Fresno State may be match for Utes
Utah football » Fresno State’s quarterback battle is still a work in progress after blowout loss to USC.
First Published Aug 31 2014 03:57 pm • Last Updated Sep 01 2014 10:00 am

Few would argue, given the available evidence, that Utah is better than No. 15 USC, but is USC really 31 points better than Utah?

Vegas says so.

At a glance

Fresno State at Utah

Saturday, 1 p.m.

TV » Pac-12 Networks

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Days after the Trojans pummeled Fresno State 52-13 at the Coliseum, Utah is favored by a mere 7.5 points at Rice-Eccles this Saturday (Edit: That line had jumped to -10 by Monday morning).

This, on the heels of the Bulldogs being outgained 701 to 317 yards. Vegas either believes USC is very good, Utah is not-so good, or degrees of both.

Fresno State is coming off an 11-2 season in which it was on track for a BCS bowl berth until San Jose State’s David Fales gave Derek Carr and Co. a taste of their own medicine, passing for 547 yards in a 62-52 upset.

Instead, Tim DeRuyter’s team landed in the Las Vegas Bowl, where they were again chum for USC, 45-20.

Carr is now vying to start for the Oakland Raiders, and gone also are two 1,000-yard receivers and three more 2013 offensive starters.

Carr’s replacement remains a work in progress.

Junior Brian Burrell got the start against USC, but rotating in for the second and fourth quarters was Duke transfer Brandon Connette.

Neither wowed. Of the two, Burrell, at 11-for-19 for 92 yards with one interception, was steadier than Connette, who threw three picks, but Connette has more experience. Last year, Connette threw for 1,212 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions, while rushing 101 times for 337 yards and 14 touchdowns as three-game starter and regular situational quarterback for the Blue Devils.

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Schramm does have some weapons offensively, including senior wideout Josh Harper, who had 79 receptions for 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013, and junior running back Marteze Waller, who rushed 16 times for 97 yards and two scores against USC.

Defensively, Fresno should not be as susceptible to the pass as it has been. On paper, at least. The Bulldogs return eight starters, and senior free safety Derron Smith had more career picks than any FBS player entering this season, with 14.

Junior outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine is a disruptive force, as well, totaling 10 sacks in 2013.

But Fresno State finished 117th in the nation last year in passing yards allowed per game, with 283.

Ultimately, Steve Sarkisian’s high-tempo approach (USC’s 105 plays set a Pac-12 record) is what Dave Christensen is going for, so unlike Utah’s thumping of Idaho State, this Saturday’s game will be a nice opportunity to compare and contrast the new-look Utes against the cream of the Pac-12 South.

They’d take a 7-point win. Thirty-nine would be nicer.


Twitter: @matthew_piper

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