One great thing about college football; it offers up great match-ups, with high stakes, right from Opening Weekend, all the way through into January. And college football bettors get a fun one to play with this Saturday afternoon when Stanford and USC meet in a big Pac-12 battle up on the Farm (3:30 pm ET, ABC).
The Betting Odds
Many books opened this game with Stanford favored by a field goal and a hook, but as of Monday evening every book we searched listed the Cardinal at -3. Those who think USC might win this game outright can get around +150 on the various college football betting moneylines.
USC opened this season with a 52-13 romp over Fresno State last Saturday, covering easily as 19-point favorites. The Trojans led 21-0 after one quarter and closed things out from there, out-gaining the Bulldogs 701-317, rushing 64 times for 277 yards, holding the ball for almost 39 minutes. Junior QB Cody Kessler got his season off to a good start, going 25/37 passing for 394 yards and four touchdowns, RB Javorius Allen ran for 133 yards and a score and the USC defense nabbed four interceptions.
New Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian inherited 13 starters from a team that went 10-4 last year. Seven starters are back on offense, including Kessler and three along the offensive line, and six starters return on defense, although that unit lost one when CB Josh Shaw was released from the program last week.
Stanford, meanwhile, opened 2014 with a 45-0 victory over FCS UC-Davis, sneaking out a cover as 42-point chalk. The Cardinal led 38-0 at the half, then made their financial backers happy by tacking on a touchdown with eight minutes to go in the game. Stanford out-gained the Aggies 461-115 and gave up just one third-down conversion the whole game.
The Cardinal returned 12 starters this year, two less than last year. Seven are back on a defense that gave up just 19 points and 89 rushing yards per game last year, but only five are back on offense, after the loss of 1,700-yard rusher Tyler Gaffney and three along the offensive line. But they do get back junior QB Kevin Hogan,for whom they're 17-3 SU and 9-8-2 ATS when he starts.
Trojans-Cardinal: Recent History
It doesn't mean anything now, but we can't consider this rivalry without remembering what is perhaps the greatest point spread upset in college football history, that day seven years ago when Stanford, as a 40-point underdog, scored on a Tavita Pritchard-to-Mark Bradford TD pass on fourth down with less than a minute to go to win at the Coliseum 24-23.
But in reality that was the game that turned this rivalry around. Including that day the Cardinal have won five of the last seven games in this series, going 5-2 ATS.
However, last year USC got a measure of revenge, upsetting Stanford as three-point home dogs 20-17. The loss didn't keep the Cardinal from winning the Pac-12, but it did keep them, perhaps, from playing in the national championship game.
Stanford out-gained the Trojans that day 337-311 and out-rushed them 210-23, but Hogan threw two fourth-quarter interceptions in USC territory, the last of which led to the game-winning field goal with 20 second left.
That game was 14-7 after the first quarter, but played 'under' its total of 45.
Trojans-Cardinal Betting Trends
Stanford is 35-7 SU, 25-15-4 ATS under head coach David Shaw.
Sarkisian, as head coach at Washington, went 1-4 SU, 2-3 ATS against the Cardinal.
Free College Football Pick
This should be a dandy; we'd be watching even without a bet. Stanford has revenge on its side, but USC is shooting to return to the top of the Pac-12 heap. Many things are close to equal in this match-up, but one trend jumps out; the underdog is 6-1 ATS in the last seven games in this series. So we'll take the Trojans and the points for our free college football pick on this one.