2013 Las Vegas Bowl Picks: Fresno State vs. USC Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 12/12/2013
I’m sure that there are teams that have gone through more coaching drama in a season than the Trojans have heading into this game, but I sure can’t think of any. They entered the season with the handicap of having Lane Kiffin at the helm. He was fired — in an airport parking lot, no less — and Ed Orgeron was named interim. The turnaround he engineered is the only reason this team is in this or any bowl game. It wasn’t enough to convince AD Pat Haden that he would be a better long-term hire than uninspiring Steve Sarkisian, though.
Orgeron pouted and took his toys and went home, so now offensive coordinator Clay Helton gets the chance to wear the interim tag while Sarkisian waits in the wings. That move cerates two questions. First, after all the turmoil does the team still have the will to perform well? Second, what will the offensive play calling look like? Kiffin called the plays until he was fired, then Helton took over. He’ll likely keep calling them, but his attentions will be divided. What impact will that have?
Las Vegas Bowl: Fresno State vs. USC Betting Storylines
Fresno State QB Derek Carr has been spectacular this year — like something out of a video game. He has passed for 4,866 yards and 48 touchdowns with just seven picks, and he has completed more than 70 percent of his passes. Those numbers have him at the helm of the top passing offense in the country and in the eyes of NFL scouts. The question, though, is how well he can handle the big jump up in class that the Trojans represent.
The toughest opponent Fresno State has played is probably Rutgers, so this is a whole new class of opponent — something that makes Fresno State so hard to evaluate. The Trojans have the top pass defense in the Pac-12, allowing 214.5 yards per game against a conference full of passers. The Trojans will have to contain receiver Davante Adams to have their way in this game. He has 1,645 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns.
The pass defense is going to be a story on both sides. Fresno State’s pass defense ranks just 118th in the country — out of 125 teams. It’s their clear weakness, and opponents have exploited it repeatedly. USC hasn’t exactly dominated the skies this year, though they have been much better lately. It has to be the focus for them in this one — something that the distraction of OC and one-time QB coach Helton won’t help.
In any bowl game you need to think about things that could be a distraction and have one of the teams playing well below their optimal focus. There are possibilities on both sides — besides the elephant in the room that is the USC soap opera, of course. Neither team likely spent much time dreaming of playing in Las Vegas on Dec. 21, so there is a real potential for disappointment on both sides. The Trojans were supposed to be strong heading into the season, and they had a chance at a much better fate before getting humiliated by UCLA last time out. Fresno State seemed destined for their first BCS appearance until they lost in their 11th outing against San Jose State. This is about as far from a BCS bowl as you can get. Beyond that, there is a chance that Fresno State could evolve a coaching crisis of its own before this game. Tim DeRuyter is in his second year with the team, and has done a remarkable job. He already gets mentioned for openings when they happen, and as more teams make changes in the coming days he could get into the mix in a serious way. If he were to interview or be seriously rumored, it could really impact the final preparations of his team.
Las Vegas Bowl Odds: Fresno State vs. USC Betting Trends
The game opened with the Trojans favored by 6.5 points. They have drawn a small majority of the action, yet the line has dropped to 5.5. That’s a sign that sharp money is tilted towards the Bulldogs. The total sits at 62.
These teams have met just twice. USC won in 2005, with Fresno State on top in 1992. The Bulldogs covered both times. Fresno State has not covered the spread in their last four bowl games. USC is 1-7 ATS in their last eight nonconference games. The Trojans have gone “under” the total in their last seven December games.
Las Vegas Bowl Picks: Fresno State vs. USC Predictions
I feel like gambling. I respect Carr and this Fresno State team a lot, and I’m looking for the upset. The coaching hassle for the Trojans won’t help, and their big loss to UCLA was an emotional setback. They are not going to be focused and motivated. Fresno State will be looking to prove themselves and silence their critics, and a win here would help. The line is such that there isn’t a whole lot of value, but Fresno State is the play here.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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