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Pick - Trends
It's early in the season, but this is a big game for both teams. Both are 0-1 in conference play and another loss could be the early dagger to their hopes of playing in the Pac-12 Championship game. USC already lost a tough one at home to Washington State, while Arizona State was handled quite easily by Stanford last weekend.
The Sun Devils sit as -5.5 point favorites at home at 5 Dimes sportsbook, which just shows how much respect USC has lost over the past year. The Trojans are a completely different team from what we've seen previously. Instead of having a high-flying offense that can score points at will, it's now the defense that's leading the team. They haven't allowed more than 14 points in a game yet, but unfortunately haven't been able to score against better opponents. Most notably, USC only scored 27 total points against WSU and Utah State.
Cody Kessler completed less than 50 percent of his passes last weekend against Utah State, but at least he didn't throw an interception. Marqise Lee's numbers are down as well with defenses focusing on him. After 25 TDs the last two seasons, Lee only has one so far in four games. The running game is the only thing that's working for the Trojans led by Tre Madden, who already has 524 total yards and three TDs. ASU has had problems stopping the run in their last two games against Wisconsin and Stanford. The Trojans will likely ride Madden as long as possible, at least while the score is close.
USC's defense has been stout, but their toughest opponent so far has probably been Chuckie Keeton and Utah State. Quarterback Taylor Kelly presents a different problem for this defense. One thing we know is that Kelly is going to air it out, as he already has 1,019 yards and eight TDs in just three games. Jaelen Strong is his top receiver, but tailbacks D.J. Foster and Marion Grice also get tons of looks coming out of the backfield. Grice has 193 yards and six TDs on the ground, but also 147 yards and two TDs through the air.
The Trojans won in this game last year, led by a dominant rushing attack and Marqise Lee going for 161 yards. Both quarterbacks tossed three interceptions in that game. If Kelly has a similar performance, it's going to be hard for the Sun Devils to cover this game. If the Trojans can get their run game going, it's hard to see how USC doesn't stay in this game unless Kessler throws it away.
The Trojans have not covered in eight straight road games. They are also just 1-4 ATS in their last five conference games. The Sun Devils don't have great trends either, going 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games following an ATS loss, and just 2-5 ATS in their last seven conference games. Arizona State is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these teams.
USC was once a lock to be the team getting all the betting action anytime they took the field. But times have changed. This week, according to the betting trends at sportsbook.com, the world largest sportsbook, 73% of the action has come in on Arizona State.
This game opened at USC +7 and has been bet down to as low as +3.5 over the course of this week. We agree with the line move here. Our score prediction model has Arizona State on top in a squeaker, 18-17. USC has dominated the series and they come in with a fantastic yards per point number on defense, which backs up our models take. Can't play USC after all the value has been sucked out of this number. If it swings back the other way, we would play USC +6 or more as well as the under 46
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