2017 Pac-12 Championship Game Expert Picks for Stanford Cardinal vs. USC Trojans
Stanford Cardinal vs. USC Trojans, Friday December 1, 8 p.m. ET
This is the worst of the five Power 5 conference championship games, and it's not even close. Every other game has a very good chance of sending their winner to the playoff. The winner here has basically no chance of making it. Stanford is totally eliminated already due to their three losses, and USC would need to win this game by a million and then have absolutely everything go their way. It's not happening. So we are left with a matchup that wasn't very interesting the first time they met this year and doesn't offer a ton to get excited about this time around, either. So, catch it if you are short of joy on a Friday night, but otherwise you can do better.
Stanford at USC Betting Storylines
Among the most interesting stories in the game is Bryce Love's last-gasp chance to grab the Heisman. Steal it, really. He's likely heading to New York, but right now he sits third in futures odds miles behind favorite Baker Mayfield and closer behind defending champ Lamar Jackson. Jackson doesn't have another game, so Love would have to really go off and then Mayfield would have to self-destruct in a major way against TCU. It's just not happening, but at least it will be fun to watch. He also needs 152 yards to hit 2,000 for the season. He has met or exceeded that number seven times this year but just once since Oct. 7. He had 160 yards on just 17 carries against USC last time, and USC ranks only 57th nationally against the run, so he has a real chance to eclipse that impressive mark - and to have a big impact on the outcome as well.
On the other side a personal storyline is much more interesting than the overall game as well. Sam Darnold has had far from the season that was anticipated heading into the season when he was the strong Heisman favorite. The NFL is starved for quarterbacks right now, though, so he has a good chance of being a Top 10 pick in the draft. This is his second to last chance to make an on-field statement for scouts, and a dominant performance against Stanford - though not exactly the best team in the country - would be a good first step. Stanford has a mediocre defense, and Darnold completed 21 of 26 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns last time they met, so it is very possible that he could have a solid game this week.
There is an interesting disparity in rest coming into this one. Stanford faces a short week as they had a game against Notre Dame - which wasn't nearly as tough as it seemed like it would be earlier in the season - on Saturday. USC, meanwhile, played 12 games in a row, so they earned a bye week last week as a result. So, will the Trojans come in well rested and well prepared or rusty? And how hard was the easy win over Notre Dame on the Cardinal?
Stanford at USC Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with USC favored by a field goal, and that has climbed slightly to four points in early action. About two-thirds of bets have been on the Trojans, so line movement meets expectations. The total opened at 57.5 and has climbed a single point so far.
The Cardinal are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games in December and 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games played on a neutral field. They are 4-1-1 ATS in their last six against teams with winning records but have failed to cover in their last five games following an ATS win. The Trojans are 2-5-1 ATS in their last eight conference games and 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 overall. They have not covered in their last five games on neutral fields. The teams have gone "over" the total in 16 of their last 23 meetings.
Stanford at USC Predictions and Picks
I probably haven't hidden it well enough for this to be a surprise, but I really hate this game. I just don't care about it. Stanford has a slight edge in terms of location, but the Trojans travel better. I just don't have a lot of faith in either team when it really matters. Stanford has won three in a row, though, with wins over Washington and Notre Dame. USC has four straight wins, but those came against weaker teams. Stanford has much better coaching, and they are probably capable of at least keeping this one close. The Cardinal are the pick against the spread.
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