USC vs. Stanford Prediction: Will the Trojans Cover the More Than Two-Touchdown Spread?

College Football expert Ian Cameron gives his first prediction and picks as he previews the Saturday night matchup between No. 14 USC and Stanford.
Ian Cameron
Wed, September 8, 9:40 AM EDT

USC vs. Stanford Prediction: Will the Trojans Cover the More Than Two-Touchdown Spread?

USC Trojans vs. Stanford Cardinals

When: Saturday, September 11

Game Time: 10:30 PM ET

Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

TV Network: FOX

USC vs Stanford Spread: USC -17

USC vs Stanford Total: 51.5

Complete USC vs Stanford Odds

USC vs. Stanford Prediction

Stanford and USC both get the PAC-12 portion of their regular-season schedule underway on Saturday night, going head-to-head against one another.

Stanford had a rough game in a season-opening 24-7 loss to Kansas State. The Cardinal offense could not take flight as starting Quarterback Jack West struggled, completing just 8 passes while throwing a pair of interceptions. Tanner McKee also got some playing time for Stanford at Quarterback, and he was a bit better, going 15-for-18, passing for 118 yards, and a touchdown. McKee has already been named the starting quarterback for Stanford on Saturday night against USC. Stanford's run game was non-existent as they ran for only 39 rushing yards as a team on 22 attempts for a paltry 1.7 yards per carry average. Kansas State's offense didn't get much going in the passing game, but they had their way running the football right down Stanford's throat last week, going for 200 yards on the ground for an average of 6.4 yards per rush. Kansas State owned the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football, and that's a troubling sign for Stanford as they will attempt to rebound here against USC. 

USC had a terrific start and finish to their season opener against San Jose State as they raced out to a quick and early 10-0 lead and made it stand up thanks to a pick-six thrown by San Jose State Quarterback Nick Starkel in the 4th Quarter and a late touchdown to secure a 30-7 win. Quarterback Kedon Slovis performed well enough as he connected on 24-of-36 67% passing with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. The Trojans ground attack against an excellent defensive front of the Spartans was able to impose their will as USC gained 160 yards on the ground while averaging 4.7 yards per carry to give them a very balanced attack offensively.

The USC defense was inconsistent last year, but they put forth an excellent performance against a very good San Jose State team. The Trojans completely shut down the talented Spartans running back Tyler Nevens holding him to just 58 yards rushing and keeping San Jose State to just 68 rushing yards overall. The inability to run the football made things much tougher on Nick Starkel as the Spartans were often behind the chains throughout the game, but a lot of credit for that has to be given to the Trojans for winning the battle in the trenches in that game.

For years, Stanford was the team with a rock-solid foundation along the offensive and defensive lines while USC struggled in both those areas. Still, after watching what I saw last week, it appears the roles may be reversed with Stanford failing to control the line of scrimmage and getting dominated in the trenches by Kansas State, while USC was undoubtedly able to do that against San Jose State.

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It feels like the line is a bit of an overreaction to USC looking good against San Jose State and Stanford playing terribly against Kansas State. I would lean to Stanford +17, but I do not like this program's direction under David Shaw, and I didn't see much in their opening game to inspire a ton of confidence that they can go on the road and knock off USC. The offense lacks weapons, solid quarterback play, and has question marks along the offensive line. USC probably gets all the checkmarks in those areas on offense in this matchup. Tanner McKee could be an upgrade at QB for Stanford over Jack West, but we haven't seen him play enough to know that definitively. Stanford still has solid enough defense, and it isn't like they were awful on that side of the football last week, but the USC offense should be a more formidable challenge for them than Kansas State.

I was impressed with how USC neutralized the ground attack of an excellent San Jose State offense last week, and I envision Stanford having some difficulty moving the football in this game. I think fundamental edges in this game point to USC, but this is a lot of points to be laying with the Trojans. The line value points to Stanford, in my opinion, and for that reason,

I'll give a slight lean to Stanford, but this is a game I will only be watching instead of betting.

USC vs Stanford Pick

LEAN: Stanford +17 (-105)

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