USC vs. Utah leads make-or-break Thursday night

Thursday night makes for the first multi-game weeknight since Week 1. Ready your remotes, as every week henceforth includes at least one weeknight with multiple FBS games. One common story connects at least four of tonight's competitors: early letdowns.

The action on the way (and here are against-the-spread picks by Bill Connelly's computer):

Arkansas State (2-3, 0-1) at Florida International (1-4, 0-1), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU: Not entirely a do-or-die game for the two teams picked to finish at the top of the Sun Belt standings, but with Louisiana-Lafeyette, Western Kentucky, Louisiana-Monroe and Middle Tennessee all boasting impressive claims to local superiority, the loser will go down as one of the early season's biggest mid-major disappointments. Each is 0-1 in conference play with a losing record overall. Preseason fave FIU has beaten only lowly Akron (in overtime), while defending champ ASU claims only Memphis and FCS Alcorn State.

East Carolina (3-2, 2-0) at UCF (2-2, 0-0), 8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network: The game exempt from the night's forced story line, as both Conference USA sides have at least met expectations. Central Florida was the preseason C-USA East pick, and they kept it close against Ohio State and Mizzou before entering conference play. ECU currently leads the division, knocking off 2011 champion Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. Still, unless 2-3 Marshall's defense can start pitching into the Herd's own title hunt, this could be the division championship game.

No. 13 USC (3-1, 1-1) at Utah (2-2, 0-1), 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: The game circled months ago as the chic Trap Game of the Year choice doesn't look quite so trappy, with the Trojans already dumping one to Stanford and Utah falling to Utah State and Arizona State. Still, it's a battle of strength-on-strength, with what's still believed to be a talented Utes front seven going against Matt Barkley's all-star arsenal. The Pac-12 South race is crowded. Neither team can reach its season goals without winning this game. Don't need much more than that.

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