Pick with Analysis
Even after a loss to Stanford a couple weeks ago, it looks like USC may be considered favorites once again in the Pac-12 South, but we have a long way to go before that’s decided. As seen in the first month, anything can happen in this conference. The Trojans host a struggling Washington team on Thursday and opened as a -17 point favorite at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.
USC is suddenly in the mix of things again after UCLA surprisingly fell to Arizona State. While Utah is first in the South at the moment, the Trojans get to host Utah, UCLA and Arizona later in the year, and a road Game at Oregon no longer looks as daunting.
The Huskies lost their Pac-12 home opener to California last weekend and don’t have much to show through their first Four Games. They opened with a loss at Boise State and their two wins are against Sacramento State and Utah State.
These teams haven’t played since 2012, so there isn’t much recent information between them considering Matt Barkley and Keith Price were the starting quarterbacks in that Game.
This time around, it’s Cody Kessler up against Jake Browning. Kessler has been close to unstoppable in the early going and if he keeps it up, should be one of the final contenders in the Heisman race. He’s completing 73% of his passes for 15 touchdowns and only one interception. Even in the loss to Stanford, he finished 25-of-32 for three touchdowns. It was the defense that failed the Trojans on that day.
Washington faces an uphill battle as its offense is simply not good enough to keep up. Browning has been decent as a true freshman, but still leaves a lot to be desired as the Huskies are only averaging 29 points per Game. Browning has completed 65% of his passes, but for only five touchdowns and Four interceptions. In UW’s two losses, he has struggled mightily with zero touchdowns and three picks.
But through it all, Washington has been able to stay close in its two losses, although neither of those Games was against USC. If the Trojans can stop the Huskies from running the ball with success, it could be a long day. However, they haven’t done a great job of that in the last two Games, yet still beat Arizona State 42-14. In the hot-hand approach, Washington will lean on either Myles Gaskin or Dwayne Washington to move the chains. But if the defense can’t stop Kessler and company, Browning will be forced to pass.
Washington’s defense has been good this year, so there is slight reason to back them in this Game. But this USC offense is a different animal. The Kessler to JuJu Smith-SChuster connection (27 receptions, 537 yards, 6 TDs) will be the defense’s first task. In the backfield, Ronald Jones, Tre Madden and Justin Davis will all likely see touches, although the USC ground Game has struggled in the last two.
If the Trojans match last week’s performance, they should cover. However, that’s not always a given and if Washington can move the ball on the ground, that should keep Kessler off the field a bit. But at some point, Browning will have to pass for a touchdown against a good team.
The Huskies have covered in Four straight following a straight-up loss, while the Trojans are just 1-5 ATS in their last six Games following a win of more than 20 points. Could this be another letdown situation?
Our Pick – The jury is still out on USC. They beat up on a couple of cupcakes, lost to Stanford and blew the doors off Arizona. Well have another piece to the puzzle after this one.
Our numbers all point towards the line here being too high and call for Washington to make this a much closer Game than the 17 point spread. Washington +17