The USC Trojans won their first Pac-12 championship last season and their first conference title since claiming the Pac-10 in 2008 by knocking off the Stanford Cardinal in the league’s title game. That win ended the South Division’s run of futility in the title matchup, giving that side of the conference its first win in seven tries. It also gave the Trojans a sweep of the two games after they cut down the Cardinal in the regular season meeting, ending a three-game losing streak to their Northern California neighbor. The teams get the league slate underway in Week 2.
This matchup in Week 2 will take place on Saturday, September 8, 2018, at 8:30 p.m. ET at Stanford Stadium. The game will air live on FOX.
College Football Odds at BookMaker.eu
USC Trojans +5.5
Stanford Cardinal -5.5
With 75 percent of the early action on the Cardinal we’ve seen the line spike two points to its current Stanford -5.5. USC wasn’t overpowering last week, failing to cover the 24-point spread against UNLV and the number could go higher before kickoff. The total of 55 looks right with wagers spread evenly, but the last three meetings in NorCal have cashed the under.
Player to Watch
Bryce Love is going to be a marked man after his monster season from a year ago got him Heisman Trophy runner-up honors. San Diego State focused on stopping him and the Aztecs did, holding Love to 29 yards on 18 attempts for an average of 1.6 yards per carry. His lowest yardage total last year was 69 yards, which was the only time he failed to surpass the 100-yard mark.
With Love held in check, the Cardinal passing game opened up and they took advantage. “I came to the line and there were 11 guys coming downhill to light him (Love) up. Being able to counter that is what you have to do to be a good offense,” quarterback K.J. Costello said. Costello threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns, three of them going to JJ Arcega-Whiteside covering 38, 19 and 80 yards.
Stanford lost its first Pac-12 Championship Game in four tries, bowing to the Trojans in an epic contest. Trailing by three points in the fourth quarter, the Cardinal drove deep into USC territory with a chance to tie the game or take the lead. On third down from the USC 2, and with Love on the sideline with an injured ankle, Cameron Scarlett gained a yard. He was stopped just short of the goal line on his next try.
Sam Darnold and the USC offense made Stanford pay by driving 99-yards for a score that put the game out of reach. Darnold needed to make one more play to clinch the outcome and he did, completing a 15-yards pass on fourth and 2, and the Trojans ran out the clock. Limited by his gimpy ankle, Love still ran for 125 yards. The win gave USC a sweep of the two games after Troy posted a 42-24 win in Week 2 of the regular season.
Either UNLV has one of the most potent ground games in the FBS or the Trojans just suck at stopping the run. I’m leaning more toward the latter on this one, though Vegas is pretty good. USC was gouged for 308 yards by the Rebels, who ranked No. 18 nationally last year with 240.2 yards per game. But a Mountain West Conference team isn’t supposed to do that against the 15th ranked team in the country.
Lex Thomas scooted for 136 yards and averaged nearly 10 yards per carry against the Trojans last week and the Rebels had several long runs, including a 71-yard scamper by Thomas that inflated his numbers. Love ran for 2,118 yards last year and had a record 12 runs of at least 50 yards.
Free ATS Pick
If the Trojans don’t get their run defense figured out Love could rejoin the early Heisman conversation. USC could be in trouble anyway after the Cardinal put up 31 points with little from their star back. Though they lost their starting quarterback, leading rusher and top receiver from last season, the Trojans have the talent to score points.
True freshman J.T. Daniels overcame some early jitters to complete 22 of 35 for 282 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over and looked more confident as the game progressed, and that’s a good sign. Stanford is the more polished team at this point and I expect Love to test USC early. The teams typically play close games and I don’t expect this one to be different.
College Football Odds: Stanford 27, USC 24
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