USC is one of just two remaining undefeated teams in the Pac-12 and they are riding a 2-game streak against-the-spread after double-digit wins over Utah and Washington State. Their defense has been aggressive and in both games, they finished +3 in turnovers.
The real story with USC is their high-paced passing offense led by sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis who is currently the conference-leader in pass completion rate and yards/game. Slovis has been masterful running offensive coordinator Graham Harrell’s air raid scheme, and getting the ball to one of the most talented wide receiver stables in the nation. Against Washington State Sunday night, Amon-Ra St. Brown had four receptions in the 1st quarter … and all four were touchdowns.
Given UCLA’s first two seasons under Chip Kelly (7-17 record) I’d have assumed this would be a blowout in 2020. Last year UCLA’s pass defense was historically bad. However, their defense actually leads the league in yards/game so far, and has vastly improved with the addition of co-defensive coordinator Brian Norwood.
I still trust USC more, and trust Slovis and the receiver core to put up their usual passing output. USC’s defense has been generating turnovers and have shown glimpses of the “old” USC with high-energy and momentum.
PREDICTION: USC 30, UCLA 24
PICK: USC -2.5 @ -110
First impressions go a long way, and the line on this game is proof of that. Iowa opened up 0-2, and was quickly forgotten on the national scene. Wisconsin opened 2-0 with blowouts of Illinois and then-ranked Michigan. The scripts have flipped since that point, but Wisconsin is still listed as the favorite here.
After the two losses (by a razor-thin 4 total points), Iowa is on a 5-game win streak and winning by an average of 22 points per game. Meanwhile, after lighting up the scoreboard for 94 points in their two wins, Wisconsin has scored just 13 combined in their two losses. Quarterback Graham Mertz started the season throwing 7 touchdowns, 0 picks, and a 75% completion rate. But over those two losses the passing production fell to 1 touchdown, 4 picks, and a 57% completion rate.
It won’t get any easier Saturday, as Iowa is the #6 ranked pass defense in terms of opponent QB rating. Wisconsin’s run game is only 7th of 14 in the Big Ten, down from their usual #1 ranking. Iowa also features the best defensive lineman in the country, with Daviyon Nixon anchoring the unit at tackle.
PREDICTION: IOWA 20 WISCONSIN 17
PICK: IOWA +2 @ -110
Florida is surging into the SEC Championship Game and a shot at the nation’s #1 team. Kyle Trask is setting passing records every week and is one of the unofficial leaders for the Heisman alongside fellow SEC quarterback Mac Jones. Before their Heisman Bowl in Atlanta next Saturday, rival LSU is the final regular season test.
LSU is one of the bottom three pass defenses in the nation, and are dead last in the SEC. We knew the team would take a step back from an all-time performance in 2019 after losing 14 starters to the NFL and both the defensive coordinator and pass-game coordinator. But no one could have predicted this free-fall. They will become the first defending champion with a losing record since 1991, and have one of the largest power rating declines from one season to the next.
Look for Trask to light up this defense, who is still recovering from their 55-point loss to Alabama (45 of which were dropped in the first half alone).
LSU is the worst pass defense in the SEC, and Florida is putting up record passing numbers. That’s enough for me to take the heavy Florida line.
PREDICTION: FLORIDA 48, LSU 23
PICK: FLORIDA -23 @ -110
As a bonus pick this week, the total points number in the Army-Navy game caught my eye. I’ve been lucky enough to attend and cover this game several times and it’s my favorite game each season. The patriotism abounds, every yard is earned, and the triple option rushing attacks are pure football throwbacks. I still like them to go over the combined 37 points, but it’s worth noting that their last 10 games have averaged just 36 total points.
PREDICTION: ARMY 27, NAVY 13
PICK: TOTAL POINTS OVER 37 @ -110