Southern Cal coach Lane Kiffin got the best Christmas present he could have asked for last Dec. 22 when star quarterback Matt Barkley announced he was going to return to school for his senior season even though he would have been a lock Top-10 pick in this year’s NFL Draft (think the Dolphins might prefer him over Ryan Tannehill? Or the Browns over 28-year-old Brandon Weeden?).
Thanks to Barkley’s announcement, USC immediately became one of the 2012 National Championship contenders and the QB an immediate Heisman favorite. With that said, let’s look at a few props involving Barkley on Bovada, along with a glance at Southern Cal’s opener on Saturday vs. Hawaii.
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Barkley just missed out on a trip to New York last year by finishing sixth in the Heisman voting. This year he is the 11/4 favorite on the site and 4/7 to finish in the Top 3. Barkley set a handful of school records as a junior, including completion percentage (69.1 percent) and touchdowns (39). His 3,528 yards was “only” fifth in school history, but remember that Barkley didn’t have the advantage of a bowl game to pad his stats as USC was ineligible the past two years. There’s little doubt Barkley will hold practically every school career passing record by about late October, which is pretty impressive considering that Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart were Heisman-winning QBs at Southern Cal this century alone.
Here are Barkley’s “over/under” totals for this season at Bovada: 3,600 yards (both -120) and 39.5 touchdowns (under -130 favorite). You can also bet on Barkley vs. fellow Pac-12 QBs Keith Price of Washington and Matt Scott of Arizona in yards and TDs. Barkley is the -300 favorite on both; Price is +140 on yards and +105 on TDs and Scott is +325 and +500.
Barkley led the conference in TD passes last year but finished third in the Pac-12 in yards behind Arizona’s Nick Foles and Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler, who both are now in the NFL. I do wonder if the Trojans will throw as much this season. Yes, they have arguably the best receiving duo in the nation in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, but now they are stacked at running back with Silas Redd joining Curtis McNeal. Combined those two had 12 catches last year, with Redd’s numbers from Penn State, so it’s not like Barkley will be throwing a ton of screens. Still, USC is almost a lock to play 14 games this season as it will win the Pac-12 South and will play in a bowl game. So I would go over Barkley’s two totals.
On the prop vs. Scott (a first-year full-time starter) and Price, I would be tempted to roll the dice on Scott at least on the yards because he will be throwing a ton in Rich Rodriguez’s offense. But I don’t think Arizona reaches a bowl game, so his totals will be in 12 games. It might be worth taking Price on the yards, however. The Huskies will, at a minimum, be in a bowl game and could sneak into the Pac-12 title game as well, especially if USC beats Oregon in the regular season. And Price is the UW offense with Chris Polk gone. Price was brilliant in his first year as starter in 2011, throwing for 3,063 yards and 33 scores, capped by outplaying Heisman winner Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl. Price won’t beat out Barkley on TDs, however, because he doesn’t have big-play receiving threats like Barkley does with Woods and Lee.
As for Saturday’s game, Hawaii (6-7 last season) is coached by Norm Chow, a former offensive coordinator at many collegiate stops who makes his head coaching debut. Chow is from Honolulu and got his start as a high school coach there. His longest stint was at BYU – part of the 1984 national title team -- and he was offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll at USC when the Trojans won national titles in 2003 and 2004. He left USC in 2005 and moved around quite a bit, spending last year with Utah.
Chow has ditched the run-and-shoot for the pro-style offense that Southern Cal still uses. Chow’s starting QB is Duke transfer Sean Schroeder, a southern California native who never threw a pass for the Blue Devils. Schroeder was a surprise winner for the job but is familiar with Chow’s offense because Duke runs a similar scheme. Hawaii ranked No. 20 in the nation in passing a year ago and No. 113 in rushing, but those numbers will clearly change in this offense. Overall, 10 starters are back on the team from last year.
Hawaii, in its first season in the Mountain West, didn’t play a ranked team last year but was 1-1 vs. the Pac-12. The Warriors beat conference doormat Colorado and played well but fell, 40-32, at Washington.
Lane Kiffin made his USC head coaching debut in the 2010 opener at Hawaii. Then-No. 14 USC won 49-36 behind five touchdown passes from Barkley, but the Trojans were actually outgained by 64 yards. Southern Cal is 7-0 all-time vs. Hawaii. This will be only the third time the Warriors have faced a No. 1 team (0-2). UH is 1-8 all-time against BCS conference teams on the road. Southern Cal has won 14 straight openers.
Hawaii at Southern Cal Betting Odds and Trends
Southern Cal is a 40-point home favorite on BetOnline with the total at 62.5. UH was 4-9 ATS last season and 2-4 ATS on the road; USC was 8-4 ATS and 4-3 at home. Over/under totals: Hawaii 6-6, USC 8-5. The Warriors are 1-7 ATS in their past eight nonconference games. The under is 5-1 in USC’s past six nonconference games.
Hawaii at Southern Cal Betting Predictions and Football Picks
Look for a big game from Barkley as he begins his Heisman campaign. I do think he’s a lock to finish in the Top 3 for the Heisman, but I don’t like him to win it for some reason. Preseason favorites seem to be at a disadvantage these days because of the impossible standards they must live up to. I should note that Barkley did receive more first-place votes than any player in the HeismanPundit/CBSSports.com Heisman straw poll this week.
Obviously, USC will win Saturday, but I could see Chow eating up clock with his running game and short, safe passes. In addition, Kiffin might call off the dogs because his team isn’t very deep after the stellar starting 22 and because USC has to travel across country to face Syracuse next week. Thus, I do think the Warriors can stay within 31-35 points and cover. Something like 45-14, so take the under.
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