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Utah at Utah St.

Editor's note: Brian Edwards cashed an easy winner with the Cincy Bearcats last night to improve to 7-3 (70%, +377) in college football this year. Check out Brian's pick pack for tonight or this pay-if-it-wins-only selection!

Our first edition of Friday Night Lights in 2012 takes us to the Beehive State, where Utah (1-0 straight up, 0-1 against the spread) will go on the road to take on Utah St. in Logan at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.

As of early this morning, most betting shops were listing the Utes as seven-point favorites with a total of 52 ½. Gamblers can take Utah St. (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) on the money line for a plus-250 return (risk $100 to win $250).

Kyle Whittingham’s team opened the season last Thursday with a 41-0 win over Northern Colorado as a 42 ½-point home favorite. John White rushed 24 times for 119 yards and one touchdown, while quarterback Jordan Wynn connected on 19-of-27 passes for 200 yards and a pair of scores. Jake Murphy was on the receiving end of both of Wynn’s TD passes and finished with six receptions for 78 yards.

Utah’s defense limited the Bears to merely 114 yards of total offense.

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Utah St. captured a 34-3 win over Southern Utah as a 20 ½-point home favorite in its season opener last Thursday. Sophomore QB Chuckie Keeton completed 22-of-26 throws for 304 yards and two touchdowns. Joe Hill ran for 116 yards and three TDs and needed just 11 carries to do so. Matt Austin brought down five catches for 116 yards and one TD, including a 35-yard TD grab.

Utah went 8-5 last season with a 30-27 overtime win over Ga. Tech as a two-point ‘dog in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Utes return nine starters on offense and seven on defense.

However, one of those defensive starters, leading returning tackler Brian Blechen, is suspended for the first three games of the year. Blechen, a junior strong safety, had 78 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions in 2011.

Utah St. went to the postseason last year for the first time since 1997, but the Aggies blew a lead in the final minute of a 24-23 loss to Ohio in the Idaho Potato Bowl on the smurf turf in Boise. The Aggies lost outright as two-point favorites.

Gary Andersen’s squad brings back six starters on offense and defense.

After a stellar freshman campaign, Keeton appears poised for a monster season. He has 13 career TD passes compared to only three interceptions. Yes, just three picks on 200 passing attempts as a freshman and sophomore. That’s taking care of the football and exactly what Andersen wants from his signal caller.

These schools haven’t met since 2009 when Utah won a 35-17 decision but Utah St. covered the number as 20 ½-point underdogs. The 52 combined points resulted in a push for bets on the total.

As a home underdog during Andersen’s four-year tenure, the Aggies own a 2-3 spread record with one outright win over BYU by a 31-16 count in 2010.

Utah has compiled a 12-12 ATS mark in 24 games as a road favorite on Whittingham’s watch.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--While appearing on the Tim Brando Show on Wednesday, Paul Finebaum had this to say when asked about Tennessee’s win over N.C. St. and the status of UT head coach Derek Dooley: “It was what you had to have. You’re starting the season in a national game on a big platform. Whether or not N.C. St. turns out to be any good really doesn’t matter. Now [Tennessee] has momentum and excitement. If Derek gets by Florida, the hot-seat stuff is out the window. He’ll be around next year. And that may give him some time to relax and do some coaching rather than worrying about saving his job.”

--Penn St. RB Bill Belton, who is an integral part of Bill O’Brien’s offense, has been upgraded to ‘probable’ at Virginia after leaving last week’s loss to Ohio in the second half with a sprained ankle. PSU cornerback Stephon Morris also sprained his ankle against the Bobcats, but he is ‘probable’ at UVA. The Cavs are 10-point favorites at most spots.

--Purdue is 5-7 ATS in 12 games as a double-digit underdog during Danny Hope’s four-year tenure. The Boilermakers are catching 14 points Saturday at Notre Dame. As for the Irish, it is 6-3-1 ATS in 10 double-digit ‘chalk’ situation under Brian Kelly.

--I have no clue how the Florida-Texas A&M total is in the 50s. I made it 45. Have the oddsmakers seen UF’s anemic offense the last 14 games? Seven of the Gators’ last eight contests have had 48 combined points or less.

--South Carolina has a 17-13 spread record in 30 games as a home favorite since Steve Spurrier took over in 2005. The Gamecocks are 22-point favorites Saturday vs. East Carolina. South Carolina QB Connor Shaw has been upgraded to 'probable' with a bruised right (throwing) shoulder.

Brian Edwards can be reached at briane@vegasinsider.com.

For daily sports gambling analysis, follow Brian Edwards on twitter at Vegasbedwards.

  
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