Stanford vs. USC Spread, Pick & Prediction: Week 2 College Football Betting Odds (September 11)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images. Pictured: Kedon Slovis
- Stanford and USC open Pac-12 play on Saturday night in Los Angeles.
- The Cardinal looked awful last week against Kansas State, while the Trojans cruised to a win over San Jose State.
- Thomas Schlarp breaks down the matchup and delivers his betting pick below.
Stanford vs. USC Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
Something just feels nostalgic about Stanford and USC meeting in the Coliseum, a college football rivalry dating back to 1905.
While the teams both most recently reached highs in 2017, meeting in that season's Pac-12 championship, the programs now find themselves in different territories with the Cardinal still looking to rebuild after a wayward 4-8, 2019 season and the Trojans hoping to finally get over the hump and earn a College Football Playoff berth.
Neither team looked all that impressive in Week 1, although the Trojans walked away with a 23-point victory, while Stanford lost by three touchdowns, so a win here will go a long way in setting the tone for the rest of the year.
With some sort of normalcy returned to the Stanford football program, following an even more chaotic 2020 season for the Cardinal than most other teams, coach David Shaw hopes to use 2021 as a bit of a time machine to the end of 2017 when Stanford used smash-mouth football to reach the Pac-12 championship game in four of five seasons.
Those plans, however, quickly hit a snag in Week 1 of this season as Stanford was defeated 24-7 by Kansas State, failing to score until 3:16 remained in the game, putting a stop to the Cardinal's four-game win streak that ended the 2020 season.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, there is no reprieve as Stanford is the first program in a decade to play 12 Power Five teams in a season. A win over USC, however, would go a long way in restoring any momentum, but can the physicality of Stanford overcome the talent advantage of the Trojans?
The big news out of Palo Alto this week was Shaw naming Tanner McKee the full-time starting quarterback. Jack West started in Week 1, but McKee played the majority of snaps. Shaw had previously stated that he planned on rotating the two again against USC.
Both quarterbacks were efficient, if not super effective, against the Wildcats, as McKee completed 16 of 18 passes, but only for 118 yards. Stanford completed just two passes north of 15 yards in length.
As one of the few Power Five teams to use a fullback, and with a perennial reputation as having a strong offensive line, Stanford typically features a productive running back, but that was not the case in Week 1 as Austin Jones led the team with just 25 yards rushing.
Stanford was successful on just 38.9% of its runs, slightly below the national average of 43.1%.
And while the offensive line was thought to be an area of strength with three returning starters on a unit that ranked sixth and 28th in Havoc and Sack Rate Allowed, Stanford gave up six sacks to Kansas State.
Stanford returned only 55% of Defensive TARP from 2020, and it was apparent as the Cardinal were bullied at the line of scrimmage to the tune of 199 rushing yards on 32 carries.
A key for Stanford against the Trojans, outside of not allowing a similar rushing performance (which is unlikely with the USC Air Raid), will be making Kedon Slovis uncomfortable to disrupt his timing with his stable of blue-chip, yet in-experienced, players at the skill positions.
Stanford has recently struggled to create much of any pressure, ranking 114th in QB pressures over the past two seasons (26.7 percent) and having a Defensive Sack Rate of 94th in 2020.
USC isn't going to be nearly as physical as Kansas State was in Week 1, but Stanford is lacking in top-end talent in coverage to minimize the Trojans' advantages elsewhere.
There was nothing super eye-catching about it, but by all accounts USC took care of business in its 30-7 win over San Jose State.
There's always a little added pressure when USC's longest standing rival comes to town, but the fact that the Trojans now may not even be the best team in their own city adds another layer to their Week 2 game with Stanford.
With a clear edge in talent at the skill positions, can USC put on a Hollywood show to maintain its position as the best team in the Pac-12 South?
USC lacked much of an offensive rhythm in Week 1 against the Spartans, going eight consecutive drives between scoring touchdowns, not reaching the end zone for a second time until 2:07 remained in the game.
Kedon Slovis, who was missing two of his top three pass-catchers, was adequate, passing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, but wide receiver Drake London proved to be worth every bit of the preseason hype he garnered, catching 13 balls for 139 yards. Tahj Washington was the only other wide receiver who caught a pass.
USC desperately needs another dynamic playmaker to step up outside of London, and that answer could come as soon as this week in the form of Gary Bryant Jr. The junior missed Week 1 in health and safety protocols but has since returned to practice and is expected to play against the Cardinal. Wideout Bru McCoy remains away from the team.
The Trojans got a surprising amount of production from running backs Keaontay Ingram and Vavae Malepeai, who both combined for 151 yards rushing, but Graham Harrell runs an Air Raid offense, and expecting that sort of output from those two week-to-week is likely less than ideal, although an exception may be made for Stanford which was thrashed by Kansas State on the ground.
There were some concerns about this Trojans defense going against a more-than-competent San Jose State offense led by quarterback Nick Starkel, but USC more than held its own.
The Trojans were down one of their best secondary players in Isaiah Pola-Mao but still managed to limit Starkel to 308 yards of damage on 46 attempts while grounding the Spartans rushing attack to 67 yards.
And while the defensive line didn't record a single sack, Starkel was never comfortable in the pocket despite USC missing two of its best defensive linemen in Nick Figueroa and Drake Jackson for extended periods of time.
Stanford vs. USC Matchup Analysis
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Stanford Offense vs. USC Defense
USC Offense vs. Stanford Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Stanford vs. USC Betting Pick
USC's offense is going to be able to put up points on Stanford. The Trojans are better at just about every position than Kansas State, and the Wildcats had their way with the Cardinal.
Getting a 100% Gary Bryant Jr. back will also be huge for the Trojans in creating more explosive plays and curing those red-zone ails from Week 1, as the Cardinal won't be able to solely dial in on Drake London.
And when USC does score points, Stanford simply doesn't have the offensive firepower to keep up. Making the move to Tanner McKee is the right choice, but he doesn't have much help at the skill positions.
This line originally opened as USC -14 before being pushed to where it is now. Our projections make this a 19-point game in the Trojans' favor, and I think USC will play with a bit of a chip on its shoulder after spending the week hearing about how great UCLA is.
I like the Trojans to roll by a similar scoreline to their Week 1 result.