USC Trojans vs. BYU Cougars Expert Picks with Betting Odds and Predictions
USC Trojans vs. BYU Cougars, Saturday September 14, 3:30 p.m. ET
When USC travels to Provo to play BYU on Saturday, it will be a game with far more storylines than it seemed like there would be even a couple of weeks ago. For starters, it is a little odd to see a team like USC travel to a place like BYU in nonconference play, so there is some novelty factor involved. Then there is the constantly evolving USC quarterback situation. We'll touch on it in more detail in a moment, but things have swung from quiet confidence to total dejection to shocked excitement in a week and a half, and now we have to figure out what is next. And on top of all that there is some drama at the helm at USC, as Lynn Swann, one of the worst athletic directors any school has had in recent memory, resigned suddenly on Monday after just more than three years in the position. That casts a cloud of uncertainty over what the future of the program looks like and what kind of longevity the current coaching staff might have. That could be a distraction heading into this game.
Add it all up and, in a week that is very short of compelling games, this game is suddenly worth paying a whole lot more attention to than it seemed it would be.
USC at BYU Betting Storylines
J.T. Daniels wasn't a serious Heisman contender entering the year or anything - hard to be on a team like his - but there were certainly high hopes being placed on his shoulders. The highly-touted player should have been poised for a big breakout year. But just into the second quarter of the opener against Fresno State - a game the Trojans went on to lose - Daniels tore his ACL and was out for the season. Suddenly a position of strength was one of uncertainty. The next man up was Kedon Slovis, and that was cause for some concern. A lot, really.
Though he had had a strong fall camp, Slovis is just a true freshman, and he was a three-star recruit who was only the 26th-ranked pro style quarterback in the country. Daniels was a five-star who was the second-ranked QB in his class. So, it seemed like the team was trading in their Ferrari for a low-mileage Corolla and hoping for the best. But it was Slovis who looked like a Ferrari last time out. Playing against a Stanford team that was ranked coming into the game, Slovis went a phenomenal 28 of 33 for 377 yards and three touchdowns. It was a very impressive outing, and it led his team to a surprising massacre of the Cardinal.
But now the question is whether he can do it twice in a row. And if he can do it on the road in front of what will be a hostile crowd. BYU's run defense has been abysmal so far this year. However, against a reasonably tough opening schedule of Utah and Tennessee, the Cougars are giving up a stingy 141 passing yards per game, which is within the Top 20 nationally. They aren't going to lie down and let Slovis run over them, so it will be a good test to see what he can do here - and against a defense that has a game's worth of tape to use to prepare for him.
BYU's QB situation is worth a look, too. Last year, Zach Wilson set the BYU freshman record for passing efficiency - at a school that has had some truly legendary quarterbacks through the years. But he hasn't been quite as sharp through the first two games this year as he was last year. His yards per attempt have fallen from 8.7 to 7.1. And after throwing four touchdowns per interception last year, he has started with just one score and two picks. But the upside is definitely there, and he looked much better in the second game than the first. And USC sits 91st nationally, having given up 246.5 passing yards per game, so there could be opportunities to do some damage for Wilson. He isn't the biggest story at his position in the game, but he's a guy you don't want to sleep on.
USC at BYU Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with USC favored by five points on the road, and that has fallen only slightly to 4.5. A large majority of bets have been on USC, so we are likely to see the line grow a bit if it moves at all. The total sits at 54.5.
The Trojans are 3-9-1 ATS in their last 13 road games, a dismal 7-18-1 ATS in the last 26 games overall, and just 1-8 ATS in their last nine nonconference games. The Cougars are 4-1 ATS in their last five nonconference games and 6-1 ATS in their last seven games overall.
USC at BYU Predictions and Picks
I really don't trust this USC team. The head coach is incompetent, the mental game isn't strong, and they are going to be in tough in front of a challenging crowd. But the Cougars are a long way from perfect. And while much of the coaching staff for USC is a long way from good, new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell obviously has a good relationship with his young QB, and he brings enough to this matchup to be a difference-maker. USC is the pick, though I wouldn't give up a touchdown, so I will be watching the line movement closely.
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