Free NCAA Football Picks: USC at Stanford Odds and Expert Predictions
USC Trojans at Stanford Cardinal, Saturday Sept. 8, 8:30 p.m. ET
It's crazy to think about how significant this game is going to be to the landscape of the Pac-12 conference this year. Stanford is favored to win the North Division, and USC is the favorite in the South. A loss would not be fatal to either team in their pursuit of a berth in the conference championship game. However, since no games have been played in the conference yet, the team that loses will give real hope to the challengers in their division. This is fantastic scheduling.
It's not just the division races that make this game so important and interesting. Both teams have high hopes and big reputations, but both also bring questions and a reasonable amount of healthy doubt into the year. This is a chance for both teams to make a statement early and prove wrong all of those - including me - that don't think that the Pac-12 is relevant nationally this year.
USC at Stanford Betting Storylines
The Trojans got off to a very slow start against UNLV last week in their opener and almost seemed like they were looking for a way to lose the game. But late in the second quarter they started to get things on track, and it wound up not being particularly close. The obvious story was true freshman QB J.T. Daniels. He has the unenviable task of replacing a high draft pick in Sam Darnold, but the hype about the newcomer has been so extreme that it feels like fans have already forgotten all about Darnold. Daniels only stoked the hype in his debut, throwing for 282 yards and a touchdown. He faces a much bigger test here, but the performance showed what we have long heard - the kid has game. He wasn't the only one filling big shoes, as running back Ronald Jones is gone, and a committee of guys has to step up. They did their job, running 27 times for 201 yards and three scores. The defense stepped up as well after the rough start, and they were close to flawless in the second half. This is a team that was expected to be improved defensively and perhaps on offense as well despite the big losses. Beating UNLV proves nothing, but it was a solid start.
When you are asked to think about the Stanford offense, almost everyone will think of Bryce Love. San Diego State certainly did last week, and they sold out on slowing him down. And they really did - he had just 29 yards on 18 carries to take an early hit to his Heisman campaign. But the problem for the Aztecs was that Stanford was clearly ready for life without Love leading the way. QB K.J. Costello looked as good as he has in his career, and receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who led the team last year with 781 yards and nine scores, had an epic outing. He had 226 receiving yards and added three touchdowns, so he is all but a lock to eclipse last year's production - maybe by the end of September if he keeps this up. That multi-dimensional strength is not something that Stanford has been known for, but it sure presents a challenge for the Trojans. They have to decide how they are going to deal with Love, and Stanford is confident that they can deal with it regardless of whether their back is muzzled or allowed room to run. That could be a defining factor here.
USC at Stanford Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Stanford favored by 3.5, and that has since climbed to six points . Action is still heavily tilted towards the home team, so we could see further line movement before kickoff. The total opened at 53.5 and has creeped up to 57 in early action.
USC has a 62-32-3 historical edge in the series and came out on top when the teams met in the Pac-12 Championship last year. But they are an ugly 3-12-1 ATS in their last 16 games overall and 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven road games, so they have not been a friend to bettors. Stanford has covered their last four games and four of their last five at home. They are just 1-4 ATS in their last five in September, though.
USC at Stanford Predictions and Picks
I like Stanford, and I like them at home. But I don't like this price. Stanford's offense isn't as good as it looked last week, and USC has plenty of talent, so hoping for Stanford to win by at least a touchdown is a risky proposition. I'd choose to pass on this game if I could, but I'd take the points if I had to - and I'd wait as long as I could in hopes that the line keeps moving and I get more points.
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