College Football Odds, Predictions, Picks | San Jose State vs. USC Betting Guide

College Football Odds, Predictions, Picks | San Jose State vs. USC Betting Guide article feature image

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: USC quarterback Caleb Williams.

San Jose State vs. USC Odds

Saturday, Aug. 26
8 p.m. ET
Pac-12 Network
San Jose State Odds
-110o / -110u
USC Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

USC opens its season by hosting San Jose State in Week 0 as the Trojans begin their quest for the College Football Playoff.

USC will once again boast one of the most dynamic and exciting offenses in college football. Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams returns for another season to try to win the Pac-12 for the first tome.

The opening schedule is very favorable for the Trojans, who should start 6-0. But the real question is whether or not they can cover this large spread in Week 0.

San Jose State is coming off a 7-5 season and showing a lot of promise going into Brent Brennan's seventh year as head coach. It returns starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, along with a number of starters across the offense.

In their one game against a Power 5 school last season, the Spartans gave Auburn a scare after taking a 10-7 lead at halftime before ultimately losing, 24-16.

Can they put that same scare into USC on Saturday? Let's dive into my top betting pick and prediction for San Jose State vs. USC.

San Jose State Spartans

San Jose State brings back a ton on the offensive side of the ball and should feature one of the better offenses in the Mountain West. The Spartans finished 2022 averaging 5.5 yards per play while ranking 51st in Success Rate and 71st in EPA per Play.

Cordeiro returns at quarterback after a stellar 2022 season in which he posted 23 touchdown passes and averaged 7.5 yards per attempt.

Even though Corderio was a good passer last season with a 75.4 PFF passing grade, he will have to improve his rushing effectiveness if San Jose State's offense is going to flourish. He did record 138 attempts on the ground but averaged just 1.9 yards per attempt with a 67.8 PFF rushing grade last season.

He'll also have to be at his best all season long to keep his starting spot. San Jose State brought in Oregon transfer Jay Butterfield, who was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and could be a potential star of the future for this team.

Another key for San Jose State is its offensive line. This unit was awful last season in both pass protection and run bl0cking. Its PFF pass-blocking grade came in at just 50.0 as Cordeiro got sacked 42 times.

Its PFF run-blocking grade sat at just 54.3, while the Spartans ranked 113th in Stuff Rate Allowed. They do return 86 starts across the offensive line, so we can expect some improvement.

The wide receiver room is a bit barren after losing two of their top three pass-catchers from last season. Plus, their top wideout, Justin Lockhart, is questionable for this game on Saturday.

The defense will have to replace a lot of production in its front seven. Star linebacker Kyle Harmon is gone after racking up 102 tackles last season, as are the Spartans' top two pass rushers in Cade Hall and Viliami Fehoko, who combined for 16.5 sacks.

The secondary may be a big strength for SJSU after it finished top-65 in Passing Success Rate Allowed, EPA per Pass Allowed and coverage grade as last season. It returns three of its four starters and added Virginia Tech transfer DJ Harvey, so the Spartans will be just as good as last season.

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USC Trojans

What more can you say about Williams and the USC offense? Williams was the best player in college football and put up gaudy numbers like 9.1 yards per pass attempt 34 touchdowns, 24 big-time throws and just three interceptions.

Williams is the key to the offense, but the pieces around him are just as good to allow everything to flourish.

In terms of his weapons, Jordan Addison has moved onto the NFL, but Mario Williams — who had the third-most catches on the team — returns to L.A. Then, Lincoln Riley went out and added former Arizona Wildcat Dorian Singer, who led the Pac-12 in receiving yards.

So, there really shouldn't be a big drop-off in terms of production from this unit.

USC WR Dorian Singer earned a 99.9 receiving grade from PFF on deep routes last season.

That’s essentially a perfect score.

I am particularly interested to see how Lincoln Riley maximizes Singer’s ability to go on bombing runs within his scheme…

Because Singer’s efficiency…

— Cole Topham (@crtopham_) August 21, 2023

Travis Dye is gone at running back, but USC has a whole host of players who can replace his production. Austin Jones returns after receiving 135 carries last season and averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The backfield also added South Carolina's MarShawn Lloyd after he put up an 83.8 PFF rushing grade and averaged 4.05 yards per carry after contact.

The defensive side of the ball was a massive issue for the Trojans last season, and Alex Grinch has to get things fixed immediately.

USC's defense was held up by an absurd +22 turnover margin, which was the highest in college football. Digging deeper into this unit, it finished 127th in Success Rate Allowed, 115th in EPA per Play Allowed and 126th in Finishing Drives Allowed.

So, USC went into the transfer portal and grabbed cornerback Tre'Quon Fegans from Alabama, defensive lineman Bear Alexander from Georgia and linebacker Mason Cobb from Oklahoma State. All three should help improve what was a horrific defense.

Here's the thing, though — even going back to Oklahoma, Grinch's "Speed D" wasn't good, as it ranked 89th in EPA per Play Allowed.

USC does return nine starters, along with the additions from the transfer portal, but expecting a massive turnaround on the defensive side of the ball for a team that had incredible turnover luck is a bit naive.

San Jose State vs. USC

Betting Pick & Prediction

The market for this game is almost entirely USC money, especially at BetMGM.

USC is currently a 30.5-point favorite vs. San Jose State on Saturday 😳

— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) August 23, 2023

Nobody wants to bet San Jose State, but in my opinion, USC is a tad overvalued here.

The Spartans have an experienced quarterback, and their top running back will be running behind an experienced offensive line. Their secondary is also competent enough to not get completely torched by Williams.

USC's defense is due for a lot of negative turnover regression, and it did add some talented players via the portal. But expecting this team to completely turn around after being one of the worst in the Power 5 is a bit premature.

I only have USC projected at -23.8, so I like the value on San Jose State at +31 and would play it down to +28.

Pick: San Jose State +31 (Play to +28) 
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