The winner of the Pac-12 title Game probably isn’t headed to the College Football Playoff and the first meeting between these teams wasn’t all that close. Still, it’s one of the only championship Games that’s in primetime with Stanford facing USC at Levi’s Stadium. The Trojans opened as -3 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
USC did whatever it wanted when these teams met back in early September. Sam Darnold threw for 316 yards and Four touchdowns with only five incompletions, while they ran for another 307 yards between Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr. Stanford got a 75-yard touchdown from Bryce Love and that was about the only positive for the offense in a 42-24 Game.
Because of that result, this spread is a bit interesting. The Cardinal haven’t been good away from home all season, from all three of their losses coming on the road, to struggling at Oregon State and Utah. USC lost two road Games, but also win big against some other Pac-12 teams. Both of these schools come in with winning streaks with Stanford’s wins over Washington and Notre Dame standing out the most.
The big question is where the Stanford defense is at compared to earlier in the season. There isn’t an offense in the Conference as talented as USC’s so it’s been hard to get a good read on them, although stopping Notre Dame to 20 points was solid. The Trojans will likely attack the same way they did in the previous meeting with Jones (1,346 yards, 16 TDs) a likely candidate to reach 100-plus rushing yards. While he may have success, Darnold is the one to push USC over the edge and that’s why they covered the first Game. Darnold has been a bit all over the place this season and that showed up in the recent win against UCLA as he threw for just 264 yards and zero touchdowns against a bad defense. If Darnold goes for 300 yards like he did in the first meeting, that’s going to be an immediate edge for the Trojans.
That’s made possible because Stanford’s offense is still lacking even with quarterback K.J. Costello looking decent in recent starts. At the least, he threw Four touchdowns against the Irish, which was more than Keller Chryst was able to do under center all year. Everything Stanford does is still based around Bryce Love and the running Game. He’s dealing with an ankle injury, but managed 20 carries last week and should be healthier for this one. He’s been in the Heisman hunt for most of the season with 1,848 yards on 8.6 yards per carry. Considering USC’s defense has struggled most of the season and is allowing 160 rushing yards per Game on 4.4 yards per carry, Love should have more success.
If Stanford gets its usual production out of Love, it should be a close Game. But that’s as long as the Cardinal defense doesn’t get completely dominated like the matchup earlier this season. If Darnold and Jones do whatever they want then Stanford simply won’t have enough offensively to keep up.
The Cardinal are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 neutral site Games and 4-1-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The Trojans are 2-5-1 ATS in their last eight Conference Games and haven’t covered in their last five at a neutral site. The over is 16-7 in the last 23 meetings between these schools.
Our Pick – Stanford +3