Rice vs. USC Odds & Picks: Expect Trojans to Dominate First Half
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Caleb Williams (USC)
Rice vs. USC Odds
Thanks to things like NIL and new transfer rules, the college football landscape has never changed more in a singular offseason than it did this year. And no one program serves as a better poster child for what money can buy in this new age than USC.
Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams — along with more than a dozen new talented faces poached from other programs via the transfer portal — make their much-anticipated debuts for Southern Cal on Saturday in the Coliseum.
A new era of Trojans football has arrived after Clay Helton’s lackluster six(ish)-year tenure, and the hype couldn’t be any higher to see if Riley can replicate the success he had at Oklahoma.
Will Riley’s Trojans open the season with a statement win, or can Rice keep things within the 32.5-point spread while USC finds its footing?
Head coach Mike Bloomgren returns for his fifth season on the job after what was the most “successful” campaign of his tenure in 2021 — a 4-8 record (the same as USC).
He’ll have his hands full, looking to upgrade a defense that was one of the worst in the FBS.
The Owls return seven starters on a defense that ranked 120th in scoring, allowing 36.2 points per game in a schedule with two Power 5 opponents (Arkansas and Texas).
Rice was particularly susceptible to the pass last season, ranking 123rd in passing defense (273.9 yards per game). A less-than-stellar secondary is extra concerning against a USC passing attack with a Heisman candidate at quarterback and two of the 20-best receivers in college football.
While the Owls didn’t exactly set the world on fire with their offense in 2021 (21.5 points per game), a large portion of their production returns. Wiley Green will be the starting quarterback out of camp for the third time in his career, despite being benched after just four games last season.
Ari Broussard (4.9 yards per carry) returns at running back, and a number of intriguing options are available at the wideout spot, like Cedric Patterson III, Sam Crawford and Nebraska transfer Luke McCaffrey.
Rice will look to kill the clock and keep the ball out of the hands of the explosive USC offense. The Owls were No. 10 in the nation in time of possession in 2021, holding onto the ball for an average of 33:14 per game.
Lights, camera, action as Southern Cal hopes for a splashy debut to set the tone of Riley’s tenure. The 14th-ranked Trojans have never lost to a Conference USA opponent, but a near five-touchdown spread is a tall task, no matter the talent disparity.
USC’s offense has a war chest of fancy new weapons to show off with a cast of characters acquired from around the nation.
Williams’ Heisman campaign will be complemented with a group of skill position players that includes former Oregon leading rusher Travis Dye, Pitt’s consensus All-American receiver Jordan Addison and the No. 4 wideout in the Class of 2021 and former Sooner, Mario Williams, to name a few.
In total, there’s 24 new transfers suiting up for the Trojans this season, but depth — or rather lack thereof — is a reason for pause on the defensive side of the ball.
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch followed Riley from Oklahoma, and his work is cut out for him. USC allowed 31.8 points per game last season — the most in program history — and returns only four starters.
It’s hard to imagine a season-long performance that bad again with top-end transfer upgrades in the form of Alabama’s Shane Lee and Arizona State’s Eric Gentry at the linebacker position, but once the Trojans tap into the reserves, there isn’t much proven talent.
That could be meaningful in a game where starters don’t play all four quarters.
Rice vs. USC Betting Pick
The Trojans opened as 34.5-point favorites, which was quickly bet down two points. The same goes for the opening total of 63.5 points.
There’s no question this should be a walk in the park for USC, and I think Riley will keep his foot on the gas a little more than usual in a non-conference blowout. He wants to make a strong first impression.
I have zero interest in sweating a potential backdoor cover of a five-score game. There’s an excessive heat warning as well, with temperatures expected to reach near 100 degrees.
I’ll back the Trojans to come out juiced up in front of their home crowd for an exciting new era of football, before the adrenaline rush wears off in the halftime locker room.
Take USC’s first-half line at nothing worse than 21 points, and don’t worry about heat or the Trojans pulling their starters with Stanford on the horizon.