USC Trojans Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
The Trojans had a solid year last year, winning the Pac-12 after recovering from a mild midseason swoon. And that was enough to make QB Sam Darnold very rich. Now the Trojans have to break in a new QB, and the incentive to do it in a hurry is high because the window in the Pac-12 South is wide open. The team has a big edge on their rivals right now and are in very good shape to win the division and fight for the conference. But not without a decent QB.
2017 in a Nutshell
They started out strong, beating Western Michigan, beating up Stanford, escaping against Texas in double overtime, and winning at Cal. But then they had a setback, losing by a field goal in Pullman against Washington State. They bounced back by beating up on Oregon State and beating Utah by a single point. But the good times didn't last. They went to Notre Dame for a rivalry game and they got humiliated by five touchdowns. It was an ugly loss, but it was their last for more than two months. They beat both Arizona teams, Colorado and UCLA. Then they won the Pac-12 title game by a field goal over Stanford. It was all enough to play Big Ten Champion Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl - the Rose Bowl was a playoff site. That didn't go well, as Ohio State cruised to a win. All in all it was a solid season but not a great one. If this was the best team in the Pac-12 then the conference wasn't having a great year - and it definitely wasn't.
Key Additions and Departures
Replacing Darnold is a big task, obviously. Jack Sears and Matt Fink have been around the team, so in most cases they would have the edge. But J.T. Daniels is a very heavily-hyped true freshman - he was originally in the class of 2019 but he reclassified - and there is certainly a strong desire for him to grab the starting job. Stud running back Ronald Jones II is playing on Sundays for Tampa Bay now, but Stephen Carr, a former five-star recruit, should be able to step up and replace him. And new recruit Markese Stepp will get a chance, too. Two of the top three receivers are gone, but that opens the corner for very-highly-rated recruit and all-name team lock Amon-Ra St. Brown to step in. Daniels and St. Brown played together in high school, so chemistry is guaranteed. The line returns four starters, and has excellent options in the fifth spot. If the team can find a QB in a hurry then they should be fine on offense.
Rasheem Green and Josh Fatu are gone from the defensive line, but the unit led the FBS in sacks last year and has the pieces to be solid again. Linebacker is very experienced and reasonably deep. And the secondary has plenty of experience, with only one corner spot in question. True freshman Chase Williams is a guy getting a lot of buzz, and he could play a lot.
There are a couple of interesting changes on the coaching staff. Tim Drevno, who was a disaster as offensive coordinator at Michigan, is back at USC as run game coordinator. And head coach Clay Helton's brother Tyson, formerly the quarterbacks coach, is now offensive coordinator at Tennessee.
Biggest Area of Concern
It has to be quarterback. The hype around Daniels is ridiculously big - in a way that could only happen in L.A. If he can live up to it then the team will quickly forget about Darnold. But if he isn't ready for prime time, or if he doesn't even win the job, then things could get a little scary.
USC Trojans Schedule Analysis
It starts out easy against UNLV, but it doesn't stay easy for long. They travel to Stanford in Week 2 and then to Texas the next week. Then they host a Washington State team that beat them last year before visiting Kevin Sumlin and his new Arizona team. They manage to avoid Washington, and a trip to Utah is the only mild concern the rest of the way in conference play. And then they end the season and seek revenge by hosting Notre Dame. If they make it through September unscathed they could easily not be threatened again until that finale.
2018-19 USC Trojans Betting Odds and Trends
USC is tied with Stanford for 16th in national title futures betting at +6000. They are favored to win the Pac-12 South at +150, well ahead of Arizona at +400 as the second choice. USC is the second choice to win the conference at +450, with Washington favored at +105. The season win total is set at 8.5, with the "over" slightly favored. J.T. Daniels is a serious long shot to win the Heisman at +6600.
2018-19 USC Trojans Predictions and College Football Picks
I'm not in love with this team given the uncertainty at QB and a coaching staff I don't love, but this schedule is manageable. Stanford, Texas and Notre Dame are the toughest games, and they won't lose all three. And they should win a minimum of eight of the other nine. So, barring a setback, nine seems like a reasonable expectation, with more very possible. The over on the season total works here. And since Daniels is the longest shot on the Heisman board, he might be worth a flyer for kicks, too.
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