College Football Odds & Pick for USC vs. Arizona: Saturday’s Betting Value Stands With Trojans
Meg Oliphant/Getty Images. Pictured: Arizona Wildcats quarterback Grant Gunnell.
- USC looks to sweep the Pac 12’s Arizona schools as it takes on the Wildcats in Tucson.
- Arizona hopes Grant Gunnell can lead it to success in 2020 with Khalil Tate gone.
- Darin Gardner is backing USC for a big win and explains why below.
USC vs. Arizona Odds
|USC Odds||-14.5 [BET NOW]|
|Arizona Odds||+14.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-556 / +400 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||67.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||3:30 p.m. ET|
After USC squeaked out a one-point victory over Arizona State last week, it takes on another Pac-12 team from the Grand Canyon State as goes up against Arizona.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats will be playing their first game of the season after last week’s game against Utah was canceled. Arizona struggled mightily last season, limping to a 4-8 finish and a 2-7 conference record. Quarterback Khalil Tate is gone, which puts Grant Gunnell under center.
Gunnell actually performed significantly better than Tate last season in a small sample size, so we’ll see if he can help the Wildcats improve in 2020.
On the other side, USC is coming off a win, but a close comeback victory as a double-digit favorite is nothing to get too excited about. That said, the Trojans definitely have a lot to improve on in this spot.
This matchup will feature a massive talent mismatch as well. USC ranks 10th in team talent based on 247Sports’ recruiting ratings, with Arizona coming in at 68th in that ranking. The only two Power Five teams ranking lower than Arizona are Kansas and Kansas State.
Let me just start off by saying that I’m not going to have any major takeaways from the Arizona State game. It was USC’s first game of the season after an 11-month layoff and kicked off at 9 a.m. local time. Making any significant conclusions feels like a bad process.
The Trojans definitely benefitted from bringing in Graham Harrell at offensive coordinator when Kliff Kingsbury left after about 17 seconds on the job. Last season, Harrell ran an offense that ranked eighth in Success Rate, 15th in yards per play and 21st in Finishing Drives.
Kedon Slovis was forced into action as a true freshman because of injury, and a case can be made that he was the best freshman quarterback in the country. He ranked 12th among all quarterbacks in Expected Points Added (EPA) per pass in 2019. Additionally, USC returns 77% of production on that side of the ball, per ESPN’s Bill Connelly, which ranks 25th among all offenses.
The USC defense was one of the most injury-riddled units in the nation last year, especially in the secondary. However, the defense returns almost everyone (seventh in defensive returning production) and would be impactful if it can stay healthy. The talent is absolutely there. The Trojans held Arizona State to only a 37% Success Rate last week, only allowing the Sun Devils to cross their 40-yard line five times.
One area in which USC’s defense performed very well last season was limiting explosiveness. The Trojans ranked 21st in Explosive Drive Rate last season. They should be able to prevent explosive plays against an Arizona offense that ranked 80th in Explosive Drive Rate a season ago.
Remember a few years ago when Arizona had a legitimate Heisman contender in Tate? Since then, Arizona’s offense has steadily declined. In 2019, the Wildcats fielded an offense that ranked 89th in EPA and 75th in Success Rate. The Wildcats were subpar in pretty much every key area. They gained only 44% of available yards (87th) and ranked 92nd in Turnover Rate and 78th in Sack Rate.
Sophomore Gunnell should be the starter this season, and he actually performed better than Tate last year in a small sample (133 non-garbage time plays). Maybe he can help improve the offense this year. If he can’t, I don’t see coach Kevin Sumlin sticking around much longer.
There aren’t enough words to describe how bad this defense was in 2019, but I’ll try. For one, there were only five Power Five teams that allowed more points per game than Arizona’s average of 35.3.
Additionally, the Wildcats ranked 128th out of 130 teams in Success Rate allowed and 123rd in First Down Rate allowed. Digging a little deeper, Arizona ranked 121st in Finishing Drives (opponent points per trip past its own 40), 127th in Busted Drive Rate, and 116th in Havoc rate.
The Wildcats were very ineffective up front, both in run defense and rushing the quarterback. They ranked 119th in Line Yards and 121st in Sack Rate. If you’re looking for a bright spot with this defense, there really isn’t one.
Betting Analysis & Pick
USC is a much better team than Arizona, and I really don’t see how the Wildcats can keep up in this game. USC went 7-2 in conference play last season, and when it won, it did so convincingly. The Trojans averaged a 15.6 margin of victory in its seven conference wins.
Additionally, when Arizona lost in conference play, it lost big. Arizona suffered seven conference losses last season, and it was defeated by an average of 20.7 points per game in those seven losses.
I jumped on USC at -11.5 on the opener, and I honestly still like it at -14. I usually never get too excited about betting a 14-point road favorite, but I think there’s still value here. My numbers project USC as a favorite of -18.7.
Pick: USC -14