Can you believe it that we’re already at Championship Weekend? It’s hard to believe, I feel like I was handicapping games for Week 1 just a few days ago. You can call it rematch weekend too, as some conference foes meet for another rodeo. Stanford and USC are meeting for the second time in the 2017 season. The first went the Trojans way, as they were the better team defensively and offensively. USC did to Stanford what Stanford typically does to so many teams, bully and wear them out on the ground. Sam Darnold put together a decent start, but it was the Ronald Jones show that led USC to their big 42-24 win.
Note, with respects to betting purposes, this is not my favorite weekend. I typically lay low until the top-tier bowl games and college football playoff this time of the year. A lot of bowl games are glorified exhibition contests, and lines can be pretty sharp for the conference championships. With that said, I don’t go as heavy on these bets, as I play less than my normal unit. Nevertheless, there are still some opportunities to cash in. Stanford have been cashing in recently, as they will look to keep it rolling against the rested Trojans in the Pac-12 Championship. The Cardinal are coming off a nice win over Notre Dame, but must gear up for an even more important game this week.
USC have been sitting back coming off a bye week, conveniently enough going into championship weekend. Bryce Love put on another display last week, as he rushed for 125 yards with a bum ankle. Love has been battling a high-ankle sprain, but has fought through the pain to continue to play. He’s rushing for a Heisman Trophy and his draft stock at this point. Love may not be able to jump over Baker Mayfield for the Heisman, but I would give him the nod over Saquon Barkley for the Doak Walker Award. Rashaad Penny really should have had a seat as a Doak Walker candidate as well.
Love is going to enter the Pac-12 Championship hampered by the ankle injury again. However, he’s been fighting through the injury for several weeks now and is still compiling impressive numbers. He hobbled off the field two or three times against Washington, a game he ran for 166 yards and 3 touchdowns in. Since then, he ran for 101 yards on Cal and the 125 yards on Notre Dame a week ago.
Adrenaline will be the engine that keeps him going against the Trojans. He ran for 160 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting against USC. USC countered with 116 yards from Ronald Jones, and 119 yards from Stephen Carr. Darnold chipped in with 316 yards and 4 touchdowns. He did have the 2 interceptions, though. It should be a good one on Friday night. Head below for our free Stanford vs. USC pick in the Pac-12 Championship at Levi’s Field.
Stanford Cardinal vs. USC Trojans Betting Odds:
vs. USC -4(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Stanford vs. USC Pick:
I took the OVER in their first meeting which cashed nicely. There was a flurry of big plays in the first-half that made for an entertaining game, until USC pulled away. The difference in that one was the quarterback battle. USC had Darnold, and Stanford got an up and down performance from Keller Chryst. K.J. Costello has since taken over at quarterback for Stanford and they’ve been getting much better production. Costello has settled in nicely. He passed for 4 touchdowns with no interceptions against the Fighting Irish. He’s tossed 5 touchdowns and 1 interception in the Cardinal’s last two games. Overall, Costello has passed for 9 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 3 touchdowns.
You kind of wanted to hold your breath when Chryst dropped back in the pocket, but Costello throws a much better ball. While Chryst looked indecisive at times, Costello has a certain sense of confidence about him. Love should be able to get his yards against a USC run defense that ranks 57th in college football. That’s just about average, and average isn’t good enough to slow down Bryce Love. Love alone isn’t enough to beat the Trojans, though. Costello must make the timely passes to keep USC on their toes.
The Cardinal have looked like a much better football team than they were earlier in the season. Knocking off Washington is no joke. They made Jake Browning look like a freshman on the field, with just 190 yards and no touchdowns. The greatest improvements they’ve made is to their defense. In the last four weeks, they’ve allowed an average of 20 points per game. Note that includes Washington State, Washington, and Notre Dame, three good offenses. If USC thinks they’re playing the same team, they will be sadly mistaken on Friday night.
Sam Darnold is coming off a dreadful performance against one of the worst defenses in college football. USC managed to come out with a 28-23 win but it wasn’t pretty. Darnold passed for no touchdowns with an interception against the hideous UCLA defense. It wasn’t a lookahead spot, USC were heading into a bye.
Darnold hasn’t done much to impress. His ability to read a defense has been shaky this year. USC had more playmakers in the receiving core last season. We’re seeing how life is without those luxuries for Darnold. He is going to get eaten up in the NFL if a team throws him into the fire without developing him. Given the teams with awful quarterbacks who will be drafting high, it’d seem that’s what will happen. He could come back for another year at USC. God help Darnold if he’s drafted by the Browns, either in the upcoming draft or 2019.
Costello looked sharp against the 54th best pass defense in the nation, and should hit his targets against USC who are 104th defending the pass. Everyone will be on the Trojans with the extra rest they’ve had. With respects to Costello, I see it as a benefit to get right back out there with a hot-hand. The worst thing for him would be to sit out for a week. In Bryce Love’s final game in the Pac-12, for the championship, only a broken leg will hold him down. David Shaw should be able to draw up something better to contain the USC offense the second time around. This should be a close contest, which would lend itself to a pick on Stanford with the points.
PICK: STANFORD +4 (-110)