USC Trojans Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
The college football season is still more than a month away as I write this, and I am already sick of hearing about Sam Darnold. Or at least I am sick of how much I imagine we will hear of him in the weeks and months to come. The second-year USC QB is the strong Heisman favorite at +425 at BetOnline (Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield are tied for second at +750). And judging by how people are talking about him, I can only assume he can walk on water and part seas on demand.
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He is obviously coming off a pretty special - and fairly unexpected - year. Now we get to see if he can duplicate the performance and if he can handle the immense pressure of being the ringmaster of arguably the biggest circus in college football.
2016 in a Nutshell:
Clay Helton needed a big year after taking over as head coach in what sure felt like an underwhelming decision following the drama at the position ever since Pete Carroll left. I'll happily admit that he did far better than I expected him to. Things were very ugly early on. They were absolutely humiliated in their opener against Alabama in Arlington, but everyone knew that that was going to happen - at least everyone not wearing their Trojan-colored goggles. They got beat up at Stanford in their third game as well and then lost a tighter one at Utah next time out.
But then they really turned a corner.
They won their last eight regular-season games, including impressive back-to-back wins at Washington and UCLA. The Huskies made the playoff, so the Trojans were able to represent the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl. They didn't disappoint in the virtual home game, beating Penn State in one of the most entertaining games of the bowl season - though one that was far from a defensive clinic.
Key Additions and Departures
The team had five players drafted after last season, though the two early departures will hurt most. First-rounder Adoree Jackson and second-rounder JuJu Smith-Schuster were both massively talented and ridiculously fast. On the transfer side, the most striking was QB Max Browne, a former blue chip recruit who was the starter at the beginning of last season before giving way to Darnold. The incoming recruiting class was strong, with four five-star recruits headlining a class ranked top eight across the board. Running back Stephen Carr is the most likely to make an early impact from the group.
USC Trojans Schedule Analysis
The schedule starts out on a much more manageable path. Instead of Alabama they open with a Western Michigan team that isn't nearly as scary as they were now that P.J. Fleck is no longer the coach. Then they play a Stanford team seeking an identity this year and a Texas team that is facing a significant overhaul under Tom Herman. All three of those games are at home, too.
The rest of the schedule is pretty manageable, too. Games at Washington State, Notre Dame and Colorado are all potentially tough road tests, but none of those squads are locks to be good. They get Utah and UCLA at home. Maybe the biggest concern is that their season ends early on Nov. 18, so they will have two weeks off before the PAC-12 Championship Game if they make it and then another big break between their bowl games or, if all goes to plans, the playoff. It could be tough to carry momentum that far.
Another concern is that without Washington on the schedule and with a weak nonconference group they could lack a signature win unless an opponent or two surprises this year. That could potentially be an issue if they are in a multi-team fight for playoff berths. All in all, though, this schedule is certainly set up well for them to win a whole lot of games.
2017-18 USC Trojans Betting Odds and Trends
The Trojans are the third betting choice to win the national title at +750 behind heavy favorites Alabama (+250) and Ohio State (+700). They are solid favorites to win the PAC-12 at +110, with Washington the second choice at +225. They are massive 26-point favorites to win the opener against Western Michigan.
Last year the team's betting performance did not match their record, though they were still profitable. They were 10-3 overall but just 8-5 ATS. They were a very strong 7-1 ATS in their last eight regular-season games, though, but they did fail to cover in the Rose Bowl as touchdown favorites.
2017-18 USC Trojans Predictions and College Football Picks
I don't love this team nearly as much as many of my colleagues seem to, but given the schedule and the generally underwhelming state of the Pac-12 anything less than 11 wins in the regular season would be a massive disappointment, and 12-0 seems like a manageable goal. My biggest concern is that they can stay out of their own way and that Helton can keep them mentally sharp. While I expect them to be in the playoff, I don't think they will do much once they get there, and they will be bet far too hard throughout the season to offer any real value.
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