USC 2018 Betting Preview: Clay Helton Will Be Exposed Without Sam Darnold

USC 2018 Betting Preview: Clay Helton Will Be Exposed Without Sam Darnold article feature image

Matthews Emmons-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Clay Helton and USC

USC 2018 Betting Odds

  • To win the National Title: +6500
  • To make Playoff: +1000
  • To make NY6 Bowl: +200
  • To win the Pac-12: +485
  • To win the Pac-12 South: +153
  • Win Total: 8.5 (over -115, under -105)

Always shop for the best line.

USC 2018 Schedule, Betting Odds

The Action Network Projected Wins: 7.2

Bet To Watch

USC Under 8.5 wins (-105)

The Sam Darnold safety blanket is gone for coach Clay Helton, who enjoyed a stellar 2016 (post-Alabama blowout) and a run to a Pac-12 title in 2017. USC ranks 115th overall in returning production, with most of those losses coming on offense.

Blue-chip true freshman JT Daniels leads quarterbacks through fall camp, but it remains to be seen if Helton will hold the 18-year-old back through the early portion of the Trojans’ schedule.

The great news for the stable of quarterbacks and returning skill-position players is the offensive line. Four starters return, but they must get better at protecting the quarterback.  USC’s offensive line dropped from fifth to 31st in adjusted sack rate during 2017, forcing Darnold to make some bad decisions.


USC returns plenty of havoc in the defensive front seven. This group ranked eighth in adjusted sack rate, and should be the anchor of stability for the Trojans through a brutal September schedule. The secondary has player turnover, and this group struggled defending big passing plays at 86th in passing downs explosiveness during 2017.

There isn’t much time for growth with this schedule. A legitimate offense in UNLV kicks off the season, while punishing trench play awaits USC in road trips to Stanford and Texas, which will both be in revenge mode after losing to the Trojans last year.

Arizona and Utah are contenders in the Pac-12 South, and USC must visit both. A season-ending game with Notre Dame could present an Irish team motivated for a shot at the College Football Playoff.

With my win total projection at 7.2, I am invested on USC under 8.5 (-105). Most of my fade on Helton comes from a lack of in-game adjustments and penalties (114th in 2016, 122nd in 2017). With the highlights of the disastrous Cotton Bowl fresh in the memory, fade the Trojans until quarterback play and the secondary become stable.

What else you need to know about USC

With a first-time starter under center and a fresh secondary for the Trojans, I’m taking a shot on USC in Week 1. This USC front seven is experienced, but still struggled to make tackles in the backfield. That will be an issue from the start against an explosive Rebels ground attack. Take UNLV +24 or better.

CFB Week 1: UNLV +30

Wouldn't be surprised to see this settle at 27.5 before kick. The UNLV rush attack should feast against a Trojan D that was 72nd in explosiveness and 113th in Stuff Rate

— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) May 21, 2018

More College Football Betting Previews

Click here for team previews on all 130 FBS schools.

How would you rate this article?