USC entered the season as the Pac-12 South favorites, but needed a late comeback to defeat division challenger Arizona State. But in that 2nd half, USC’s offense got back to its high 2019 form.
I spoke with USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell in the spring while preparing for my annual season preview book – and was impressed with how quickly he transitioned “Tailback U” into a high-powered Air Raid passing attack. Kedon Slovis excelled as a freshman in 2019, and in the 2nd half Saturday he went 23 for 29 (79%) for 219 yards and 2 touchdowns. The wide receiver core is again one of the nation’s best.
Look for the USC offense to keep rolling after a rusty 1st half in the opener. Arizona is attempting to switch to a 3-4 defense, which is a tough decision given their roster hole at linebacker. Anthony Pandy is a proven leader there, but in the LB-heavy 3-4, he will be surrounded by 3 walk-ons. It will also be Arizona’s first game due to cancellation last week – meanwhile USC knocked the rust off already.
PREDICTION: USC 41, ARIZONA 20
PICK: USC -14 @ -110 (Click to bet)
Back in June, I was the only preseason publication to have Oregon in the Playoff. A lot has changed since then. Oregon’s schedule was cut in half, their Outland winner Penei Sewell opted out, and half of their nation-best secondary opted out.
But their debut was a strong 35-14 win over Stanford – and an ATS win here.
I expect new starter Tyler Shough to take another step forward in his second start, and for Oregon’s lines to overpower Washington State in both trenches.
PREDICTION: OREGON 38, WASHINGTON STATE 24
PICK: OREGON -10 @ -110
My Game Grader formula digs deeper than the final score. On the surface, you’d see Miami barely survived an NC State upset bid, but statistically that margin should have been larger. Miami outgained NC State by over 200 yards which is a margin usually accompanied by a 17 to 21-point win. Miami failed three times in the red zone, or else the score would have reflected that.
D’Eriq King was masterful – 430 yards passing, 105 yards rushing, and 5 touchdowns including a 13-point 4th quarter to steal back the win. Look for more big stats from King and the offense, especially if they get All-American candidate Brevin Jordan back in the pass game.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is limping into this one after losing to non-AQ Liberty. This 38-35 score was no fluke – Liberty outgained them by 50 yards and ran for 250.
I am not sure why Virginia Tech is favored in this one.
PREDICTION: MIAMI 34, VIRGINIA TECH 30
PICK: MIAMI +2 @ -110
Kyle Trask became the first SEC quarterback to throw 4+ touchdowns in 5 straight games. And the record-breaker came against a Georgia defense that was unanimously considered a Top 10 unit. Alabama laid out the blueprint for attacking Georgia with vertical passing, and Dan Mullen’s Gators seized on the opportunity. Florida now controls its own destiny to win the SEC East, and have a shot against Alabama in the SEC title game. Looks like my bold “Florida to Playoff” pick is alive again.
I credit Arkansas as being one of the best turnaround stories of 2020. The national media wrote off the Sam Pittman hire within hours of the news, and as usual, prematurely mocking these hires backfires. I like to wait a full two years to watch them build, install, recruit, and hire coordinators before grading them.
Arkansas had been the worst Power 5 defense for the past three seasons, but defensive coordinator Barry Odom fixed them in a short offseason. That said, we know Trask will get his 4 touchdowns, and Florida will get their 40 points. It will be interesting watching Feleipe Franks against his old team and I think Arkansas will hit on a few scores themselves. This is my “over points” bet for the week.
PREDICTION: FLORIDA 42, ARKANSAS 21
PICK: OVER 60 POINTS @ -110