USC Trojans vs Stanford Cardinal Predictions & Picks

Stanford Cardinal team celebrating

Thursday, September 15, 2016 9:16 PM GMT

Our College Football handicapper takes a look at this marquee Pac-12 matchup where two QB's are getting a taste of their first Pac-12 action. See where the value lies in his analysis below.

USC Trojans vs Stanford Cardinal
The Stanford Cardinal come off of an early bye week to face one of their biggest rivals and source of frustration over the years, the USC Trojans. Stanford is 7-4 SU in the last decade over the Trojans and beat USC twice in 2015 by beating them 41-31 in the regular season and 41-22 in the Pac-12 Championship game. The Cardinals come into this game ranked 7th in the country, and this game being in Palo Alto, find themselves as big favorites at the books. As of Tuesday night, the Cardinal could be found as high as 9.5-point favorites at Pinnacle, while more conservative books such as 5Dimes, which is offering 50% free sign up play, had the line listed at 9 even. The O/U total is currently listed at 53 points, a total that would be obliterated to the Over in the last two meetings between these teams.

In 2015, Christian McCaffrey broke the record for all-purpose yards in a season against USC in the Pac-12 Championship game and was a terror to USC in their two meetings. I mean, he was a terror to everybody, but the fact is he is still on the Cardinal team and dynamic as ever. McCaffrey put up 461 all-purpose yards in their last meeting, and no, that is not a typo.

Clay Helton did a good job coaching his team to a bounce back win after USC was trounced by Alabama in Week 1. In press conferences in the week after Helton discussed the lack of physicality displayed by his young team, and that appeared to have been reversed in the game against Utah State. The first year starting QB, Max Browne, had a good game against Utah State, and so did redshirt sophomore QB, Sam Darnold, who was used in some goal line packages. This will be the first Pac 12 start for Browne and he will face an experienced Stanford defensive line. Clay Helton stated that Darnold will still be used throughout games in certain packages, as he is a dual-threat athlete that keeps offenses on their toes.

Also starting a new starting QB on Saturday is the Cardinal, as Ryan Burns takes the helm for Stanford. Focusing on the run more often than not in their first game against Kansas State, Burns went 14-18 for 156 yards and a touchdown, but also fumbled twice and was sacked two times. This offense is all about McCaffrey at the moment, controlling the ball, and letting the defense get it back. The defense played a stellar first half against Kansas State, limiting them to just a field goal with 6-seconds left in the half. That 26-13 Stanford win went well under the listed total of 39 points.

 

Final Analysis
I like the Under here for a variety of reasons. One is the results of last year’s high scoring contests, which should serve to inflate the line a bit. The last 41-22 game was 13-3 at half – not exactly a blistering pace, and those QB’s aren’t around to light it up in the 2nd half. These defenses are the strong suit of both teams at the moment, along with the running game. This is the first Pac-12 action for either quarterback, and I expect one if not both of them to start to slow or falter under the pressure. Stanford is also coming off of a bye week, a situation that favors the Under by a margin of 4-1 in their last 5 games. Although I have a slight lean to USC and taking the points, I think the value here is to take the Under at the best price you can find it, which is 53 at 5Dimes for my Saturday College Football Pick.

 

Free NCAAF Pick: Under 52.5 -110
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes
2016 CFB: 6-4 ATS, +1.5 Units

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