Stanford-USC Closer Than Odds Suggest: College Football Pick

Charles Stark

Saturday, September 19, 2015 12:29 PM GMT

The University of Southern California seems to be back on track to be a national contender. Today they take on the Stanford Cardinal at home in what should be a hard-fought contest. Although it might be easy to take the Trojans in this matchup I'm going to back the Cardinals for one of my NCAA football picks plus the points in what should be a game that goes down to the wire. Odds makers have set up USC as a pretty big favorite in this spot, and in my opinion is just too many points.

NCAA football odds
College football odds makers have come out making the Trojans close to a double-digit favorite. Right now there is some good value on taking the Stanford Cardinals at +9.5. You can get those odds at regular juice of -110 at Bovada sportsbook.

 

Stanford Cardinals
Last year offensively versus the Trojans Stanford only scored 10 points, produced 413 total yards, and had two turnovers on two fumbles. It is kind of hard to argue against the fact that Stanford completely dominated that game and just got snake bit, but that is the beauty of sports sometimes. They actually took the lead and should have had another touchdown with about seven minutes left but it was negated with a chop block. On offense they have some solid guys back including quarterback Kevin Hogan, and most of their offensive line. They did not play well as a unit in their first game of the year against Northwestern but then bounced back against Central Florida. They should be fine on this end of the ball and be able to move the chains versus the Trojans.

Defensively so far this year versus Northwestern and UCF the Stanford Cardinal have allowed 11.5 points per game, 255 total yards per game, and a third-down 45.71% conversion rate. It is hard to compare defensively what they did last year against USC considering the fact they lost most of their starters on this side of the ball. The good news is the talent is there and they have a solid core of returning linebackers intact. I would expect that USC will move the ball better against them at home this year than they did last year at Stanford, but I anticipate head coach David Shaw will have his defense ready to face a skilled USC team to keep this game close.

 

USC Trojans
Offensively last year versus Stanford the Trojans scored 13 points, gained 291 total yards, and 16 first downs. They got some breaks that game and took advantage of them and won on a long field-goal. It is hard to quantify what they have done so far this season because there first two opponents were extremely overmatched in Arkansas state and Idaho. Quarterback Cody Kessler and head coach Steve Sarkisian have a lot of weapons this year at their disposal. What I do like about them this year though is outside of the obvious skill position guys, they have a solid core of offensive lineman back. They have yet to be challenged this season though as a unit and they might come in a bit overconfident.

Defensively, the USC Trojans have been solid in two games allowing an average of 7.5 points, and 356 total yards. Last year against Stanford they allowed Hogan to passport 285 yards, and the Cardinals to rush for 128. They do have guys back on the defensive end, especially on the line. If they can get pressure on Hogan they have a good chance to win this game running away, but I don't think they will do that against a well coached Cardinal team. It'll be interesting to see when Stanford passes the ball if the Trojans will be able to get the Hogan because last years the pass rush left something to be desired. As well, I don't know if they are prepared for the grind Stanford Cardinals will try to impose on them from the first quarter until the fourth quarter.

Free College Football Pick
I think people are counting out Stanford a bit too early. Although they have some new guys on the defensive side they are still a talented team, and offensively they should start to come around with all their returners. No doubt USC is much better this season and should win this game, but don't be surprised if Stanford finds a way to pull this out. At the worst, I believe this game comes down to the final minutes so for one of your college football picks I suggest taking the points with the Cardinals.