USC vs. Alabama Pick – NCAAF Week 1

In what is the marquee game for the first Saturday of the college football season, USC and Alabama meet in a battle of ranked teams. One is ranked 20th and the other is number 1 in the country. I bet you can’t guess which is who? Okay, I’m being a bit ridiculous there, of course it’s Alabama. The Crimson Tide will make another run at the National Championship in 2016, following a successful run all the way to the end last season. Alabama was upset the previous season to Ohio State in the semi-final, but there were no mistakes about it against Michigan State and Clemson in the college football playoff.

Alabama does not rebuild, they just reload. If there’s a school that saying rings true for more than any other it would be Alabama. Year after year they build a defense that doesn’t seem to change. If you didn’t know, you’d think it’s the same players on the roster continually. Nick Saban has been that good.

The last thing I remember from USC is Cody Kessler standing in the pocket getting bulldozed by a defender. That came against Stanford, and then they lost to Wisconsin in their bowl game a few weeks later. Conversely, I recall Alabama celebrating a National Championship over Clemson. The USC Trojans have long been underachievers, failing to win much with Cody Kessler at the controls, who is now in the NFL trying to make the Arizona Cardinals roster.

The last time the Trojans were really considered to be a threat was when Mark Sanchez quarterbacked at USC. They enter as a ranked team at 17 but who would be surprised if they fall out of the top 25 within the next five weeks? With Kessler departing for the NFL, USC will look at Max Browne to take over. Browne has waited in his wing for this chance, and here it is, against arguably the best defense in college football. He gets a tough draw immediately against the Crimson Tide in Week 1.

USC Trojans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide NCAAF Betting Odds:

USC +12(-110)
vs. Alabama -12(-110)

Over 53(-110)
Under 53(-110)

Odds provided by

USC vs. Alabama Pick:

It isn’t exactly something you dream up, having to play Alabama in your first ever college football start. But like I’ve said before, playing well against a team like this can be a major confidence boost for the rest of a quarterback’s career. Browne isn’t some schmuck just jumping in to fill in. He could develop into a good quarterback and put together a quality year as a junior. Browne was named National High School Player of the Year some years ago, so it isn’t like he lacks a solid skillset. He also has plenty to work with around him, including a strong running game and a future NFL receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster collected 89 receptions and 1,454 yards with 10 touchdowns in 2015. The offensive line will remain pretty well unchanged from a year ago.

USC should be able to route opposing defenses this season, but what about Alabama? There aren’t too many that can dispatch them. The only that come to mind are Ohio State in the college football playoff, and then Texas A&M circa Johnny Manziel. The defense will be loaded for the Crimson Tide once again. The front 7 are going to wreak havoc routinely, something we’ve become accustomed to over the last decade under Nick Saban.

There will be two inexperienced quarterbacks at the controls in this game. Browne will be making his first start, as will, well Alabama is keeping that a secret for now. It’s either going to be junior Cooper Bateman and redshirt freshman Blake Barnett. Jake Coker won the quarterback competition over Bateman last season, who directed them to the National Championship. I would expect Bateman to get the call here, who only had 291 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions a year ago and limited action.

Expect Bama to run the ball early and often. This has the makings for an exciting game, but if you like a defensive tilt you might want to watch elsewhere. I fail to see either quarterback getting into a groove under the big dome at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas. USC returns a capable secondary, which should be the strength of the defense. Not sure if the Alabama signal-caller will be able to make it work right out of the gates in 2016. I suspect that Alabama will ugly this game up and win a low scoring contest.


Kyle E / Author

Kyle is a veteran of TheSportsGeek and has spent nearly a decade providing accurate sports picks and writeups here. He has been a sports handicapper for 10+ years and started sharing his picks and thoughts in 2011 at TheSportsGeek. His expertise spans across multiple sports, including the NFL, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, and horse racing. Prior to writing for TheSportsGeek, Kyle was a fantasy football expert, who ultimately parlayed it into a successful sports betting career. You can find his picks daily only at TheSportsGeek.