Betting the Spread in Fresno State vs. USC

Jeff Grant

Thursday, July 31, 2014 2:25 PM GMT

The USC Trojans dismantled the Fresno State Bulldogs with a limited roster in Las Vegas a year ago, which is one of the main reasons to back them again in their 2014 season opener. Lets take a look at the spread and determine if the number has been set too high for our college football picks.

Taking a step back
Fresno State has won back-to-back Mountain West Conference championships in head coach Tim DeRuyter’s first two years, which can’t be ignored when looking over the Week 1 college football lines, but many experts believe the program will take a step back in 2014.

For the first time in three years, the Bulldogs will be without the services of Derek Carr, who set 27 school records and led the FBS in nine statistical categories for signal-callers last season.

DeRuyter has yet to develop a true depth chart at the position entering fall camp, but many believe that Duke Blue Devils transfer Brandon Connette will land the job.

 

Back where he belongs
USC had four head coaches in a 65-day span last season—an influx that finally came to an end with former Washington Huskies front man Steve Sarkisian landing back on campus for the fifth time in his career.

Sarkisian was a spectator in the press box when the Trojans picked up a 45-20 blowout victory over Fresno State as 4.5-point neutral-site underdogs in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl, which provides him plenty of confidence in getting ready for this matchup.

College football handicappers need to be aware that the program played that contest with just 44 recruited scholarship players available due to NCAA restrictions.

 

All about the defense
The Bulldogs will need to play a special game on defense to potentially earn a straight-up victory, but the unit does return eight starters, including Preseason All-America safety Derron Smith, who has played a major role in helping the squad cause 58 turnovers the last two years.

Fresno State has also ranked in the top 10 nationally in sacks over that period of time, but most of those numbers were put up against lesser competition—not a Pac-12 Conference juggernaut.

 

A great situation
Trojan faithful are expecting a blowout victory at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Aug. 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET, considering it has witnessed a win in 15 of the school’s last 16 home openers.

USC has also put together a 21-0 straight-up record when hosting non-conference opponents other than the Notre Dame Fighting Irish dating back to the 2002 campaign.

With 18 returning starters, including quarterback Cody Kessler and All-America defensive tackle Leonard Williams—anything less than a three-touchdown win would be a disappointment.

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Prediction
I’m going to recommend that readers back the Trojans as one of their college football picks, as Sarkisian covered the number in 20 of his 25 home wins during his time in the Pacific Northwest.

Free College Football Pick:  USC Trojans -22