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Western Michigan

vs.

USC

College Football Pick

9/2/17

This would’ve been an intriguing matchup a season ago, but those chances are gone in 2017. Western Michigan is far from the team that went 13-1 and made it to the Cotton Bowl, while USC is much different than the one that opened 2016 without Sam Darnold at quarterback. And so, the Trojans are huge -27.5 point favorites as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

Darnold took the starting job from Max Browne last season and never looked back. After completing 67.2% of his passes for 31 TDs and 9 INTs, Darnold is one of the favorites for the Heisman and the projected No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. While there are a lot of new faces around him, that shouldn’t matter all that much if Darnold plays as good as a year ago. Deontay Burnett (56 receptions) moves into the top receiving position with Jalen Greene stepping into a starting role. Ronald Jones II (1,082 yards, 12 TDs) should see most of the carries after gaining 6.1 yard per tote last season. The line only returns two starters, but that isn’t expected to be a major issue.

Western will have its hands full even if its defense is expected to be the strong suit of the team this season. The Broncos return six defenders from a group that allowed less than 20 points per game. At the end of the day, this is a MAC team that didn’t face many high-level offenses a year ago. Throw in new head coach Tim Lester and this isn’t nearly the same team.

That’s even more notable on the offensive side with Jon Wassink the new starting quarterback. He hasn’t taken a snap on the collegiate level as he replaces four-year starter Zach Terrell. With only one returning starter on the line, Wassink has a lot on his shoulders with new targets also in the receiving game led by D’Wayne Eskridge (17 receptions) and tight end Donnie Ernsberger (9 receptions). The Broncos will likely use a run-first approach as much as possible, but it’s hard to see that working in this game if USC gets out to an early lead. Jarvion Franklin (1,353 yards, 12 TDs) and Jamauri Bogan (923 yards, 8 TDs) will be asked to do most of the heavy lifting out of the backfield, but again, the line is mostly inexperienced.

That said, the Trojans haven’t been much on the defensive end in recent years and that was seen after giving up 49 points in the Rose Bowl. With six returning starters and this being USC, there’s still plenty of talent with guys like Rasheem Green and Porter Gustin, that will simply overpower an inexperienced offensive line.

Western Michigan is coming off an historical season and a downfall is headed its way unless Wassink can come in and provide consistency at quarterback. If not, the offense won’t reach last year’s levels and will have trouble scoring against better defenses. This spread is big, but if Darnold can start the season on a good note, the Trojans could run away with this game early.

Our Pick - USC/Western Michigan OVER 57.5

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