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Matt Barkley was returning to USC this season because he wanted to play in the National Championship and win the Heisman. Three losses later and those dreams have disappeared completely. The Trojans may not even make it to the Rose Bowl if they can't win at UCLA a week from now. Each of these teams is struggling defensively and that has led to a collective five straight losses (three for Arizona State). As expected, most of the public is on USC in this game (92% at sportsbook.ag)
The Sun Devils held their own in last year's game beating USC 43-22 in Tempe. That was the first outright win for Arizona State over USC in 11 years. Even so, the Sun Devils have covered the spread in four straight meetings. A lot of that had to do with Brock Osweiler, but now it's Taylor Kelly's job to keep his team in fighting distance.
In his first season as a full-time starter, Kelly hasn't been all that bad. He's completing 65% of his passes along with 20 TDs and only six INTs. However, his consistency has been lacking lately. Against the state of Oregon, Kelly has only managed 246 yards, two TDs and three INTs. In two games, that's not going to cut it. The Arizona State running game is another big factor. They basically use three different running backs in addition to Kelly. Those three RBs have combined for 1,100 yards and 14 TDs on the ground to go with 866 yards and 12 TDs through the air. The usage of three RBs keeps them all fresh throughout the game. Kelly actually has a team-high 97 carries for 383 yards, as well.
As expected, USC's defense had trouble stopping Oregon, but they also let Arizona's QB, Matt Scott go for 469 total yards and four TDs. As long as Kelly doesn't turn it over more than once, the Sun Devils can stay in this game.
Matt Barkley may have 14 TDs in his last three games, but USC has lost two of those. He also has thrown 10 INTs this season which is already three more than he had in all of 2011. The last two weeks he's had to gun the ball constantly which is the reason for those big numbers. He has 977 yards, eight TDs, 103 pass attempts and four INTs in his last two games. Wide receiver Marqise Lee is basically unstoppable for Barkley. He's second in the nation with 1,286 yards and 12 TDs. He's averaging over 200 yards per game in his last three contests. On the other side, Robert Woods still packs a punch with 656 yards and 10 TDs. Because of Barkley's arm, running back Silas Redd hasn't gotten as many carries as he was hoping for at the beginning of the year. The Trojans would be wise to give Redd over 20 touches to keep their defense off the field.
The Sun Devils have been unable to cover the spread in three straight games and are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 conference games. USC has only covered twice all season and are 0-4 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The over is 7-2 in Arizona State's last nine road games and the under is 5-1 in USC's last six home games. In this meeting, the under is 3-1-1 in the last five contests in Southern California.
USC opened as a -10 point favorite at most books including 5 Dimes, betonline and youwager. Yet, the line moved down to -9, despite the overwhelming action from the public on the Trojans. This is usually a good sign that sharp money is responsible for the line move. Our numbers also show that this number should be less than -10 and our model actually predicts a 1 point Arizona State win when using season to date stats. USC won this game by 5 and 1 in 2009 and 2010 and last year Arizona State won straight up, 43-22. No reason why this one won't be close. Arizona State +9 (if +10 should show up again before kickoff, we'd consider using this as a key release.)
MARCH MADNESS SPECIALS - KEY RELEASES PLUS SCORE PREDICTIONS THRU THE FINAL 4. DETAILS HERE