Stanford and USC Grind Out ‘Under’ Winner in Pac-12 Opener

Willie Bee

Wednesday, September 6, 2017 1:22 PM UTC

Wednesday, Sep. 6, 2017 1:22 PM UTC

Heisman Trophy hopeful Sam Darnold and USC are favored at home on the NCAA football odds, but the Stanford Cardinal are confident they can beat the Trojans yet again Saturday in the Pac-12 opener for both.

NCAAF Season Record: 6-4 (+1.60)

Welcome to Week 2 of the 2017 College Football Playoff. Oh sure, the first official playoff games aren’t until Jan. 1, 2018 when the Rose and Sugar Bowls host the collegiate gridiron version of the Final Four. But don’t tell the Stanford Cardinal and USC Trojans that their matchup this Saturday won’t play a key part in either getting there.

A packed LA Coliseum is expected for the 95th meeting between the teams, the proceedings getting underway at 8:30 PM (ET). We have already seen a lot of movement on the spread from the moment BetOnline sent the Trojans out at -10. That number was quickly cut in half before moving back up with most shops listing USC -6½ now. The total also moved a bit in its first 24 hours, beginning at 54½ and now sitting 56.


Trojans Have To Plug Holes In Run Defense

The Cardinal got their campaign going with an easy 62-7 romp past an overmatched Rice squad on the first of two Saturdays during Week 1. The best news for head coach David Shaw was seeing Keller Chryst back under center following a knee injury in the Sun Bowl, the senior passing for more than 250 yards and a pair of scores on a 14-for-25 day. Chryst never really needed an aerial game with the ground game posting almost 290 yards and led by Bryce Love’s 180 on 13 carries. The Stanford stop unit kept the Owls off the scoreboard until late in the fourth quarter, coming away with an interception and fumble recovery,

It wasn’t so easy for Southern Cal last Saturday, though the Trojans did beat a more talented team than Rice in Western Michigan. College football odds boards closed with USC giving up 28 in the 49-31 final, Clay Helton’s group tied at the end of the third and needing a big fourth quarter to avoid the upset. Heisman candidate Sam Darnold passed for nearly 290 yards by completing 23 of his 33 attempts, but also completed two to Bronco defenders. Ronald Jones II had a big day carrying the pigskin, scoring three times and racking up 159 yards on 18 totes. But the USC defense never solved WMU’s running game as the Broncos accrued 263 yards through the trenches and around the ends.


Rivalry Trends, Final Thoughts & A Free Pick

Seeing these teams meet early in the year isn’t new with their last three clashes taking place in the first three weeks of the schedule. Southern California holds a comfortable 59-32-3 advantage in the previous 94 encounters, but it’s Stanford that has been cutting into that margin with outright wins in seven of the last nine contests, and covers in eight of the last 11. The Cardinal posted a 27-10 decision at home as a TD favorite last September, the final falling short of a 49-point total.

Sunny and around 80° with just a light breeze is the forecast for the 5:30 PM kickoff local time. If the Trojans can’t do better against the run than they did last week, Stanford is going to win this one by 20. My expectations, however, are both defenses step up and make my free college football pick on the ‘under’ a winner.

Free NCAAF Pick: 'Under' 56 (-105)Best Line Offered: Heritage

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