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USC Trojans vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Odds - Prediction

USC Trojans (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (11-2 SU, 9-3 ATS)
Rose Bowl
Date/Time: Monday, January 2, 2017 at 5PM EST
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
TV: ESPN
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: USC -7/PSU +7
Over/Under Total: 62.5

The USC Trojans meet the Penn State Nittany Lions on January 2 in the Rose Bowl from Pasadena. Neither of these teams made it to the College Football Playoff, though both are among the very best teams in the nation. Each team may have had a few setbacks, but with USC winning 8 in a row and Penn State winning 9 in a row to end the season, an argument can be made that these teams can play with anyone. We’re talking about two teams that got better over the course of the season and when looking at bowl matchups, this looks to be perhaps the most appetizing of all games.

USC never looked like it would get to this level after a 1-3 start that included a massive beating at the hands of Alabama, with losses to Stanford and Utah. Once they got Sam Darnold behind center, things began to come together. Next thing you know, USC was crushing conference opposition with nary a struggle, while covering spreads left and right, including their last six. During this 8-game winning streak, only Pac-12 South champion Colorado was even able to remain competitive with the Trojans.

A lot of players stepped forward for the Trojans this season, as they developed the battle-hardened grit that comes from rallying back from such adversity. On offense, Sam Darnold, a redshirt freshman, was a key part of the equation. Despite not taking over until a third of the season was over, Darnold ended up with 2633 yards and 26 touchdowns, also running in a few touchdowns. He completed over 68% of his throws, though he did throw some picks toward the end of the season. It didn’t matter. No team really came that close to the Trojans over the second half of the campaign.

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At Darnold’s disposal are a full box of tools. The run-game turned around over the course of the season, with Ronald Jones going over 1000 yards, while Justin Davis and Aca’Cedric Ware added some flair on the ground. Darnold’s options through the air are many, led by JuJu Smith Schuster, one of the best in the conference, along with Darreus Rogers and Deontay Burnett. With other role players and a line that seemingly improved with each passing game, the Southern Cal offense is a handful.

The USC defense played in consort with the offense, getting better as the other side of the ball began achieving improved results. No team surpassed 27 points against the Trojans in their last 8 games, not too shabby considering their opposition. They have some playmaking ability, with the electric Adoree Jackson patrolling the secondary. Jackson has also been a major game-breaking presence on special teams. They’ve given up an average of just 22.2 points per game and that’s after starting off the season with Alabama pinning 52 on them.

Penn State showed its true mettle in a Big Ten title game win over Wisconsin on the 3rd. Down 28-7, the Nittany Lions started chipping away at that lead, with a passionate display on offense, combined with a defense that went from getting exploited to holding the Badgers to very little. After getting lit up in the first half, the defense made plays and allowed a mere field goal in the second half. With nine straight wins, including a Big Ten title and wins over a bunch of good teams like CFP-bound Ohio State, Penn State had one heck of a season.

The Penn St. offense has been consistently putting together big performances, led by gutty quarterback Trace McSorley and rampaging running back Saquon Barkley. On the season, McSorley threw for 3360 yards with 25 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also ran in 6 touchdowns. Barkley had 1302 yards with 19 touchdowns. Through the air, Chris Godwin, Mike Gesicki, DaeSean Hamilton, DeAndre Thompkins, Saeed Blacknall, and Barkley have been dependable targets. In their last 6 games, they’re one of the highest-scoring teams in the country.

The Penn State defense has been giving the offense more than enough room with which to work. They’ve given up some points during the course of the season and even against Wisconsin, they looked very vulnerable in the first half. But they are a team that can tighten up and play at its best in the most critical of situations, just as they did in the conference championship game. They can really get after the quarterback, one of the best pass-rushing teams in the nations, especially over the last half of the season. Evan Schwan, Garrett Sickels, and Kevin Givens have been making plays and this defense can play a lot better than it looks on paper.

Both of these teams were completely off the radar after the first month of the season. They both found the wherewithal and overall spirit to dust themselves off and rally for big seasons, as they now find themselves in the Rose Bowl. Beyond the X’s and O’s and each team’s strengths and weaknesses is a certain unquantifiable level of character that these teams possess. And after working so hard and overcoming so much to get here, it will be interesting to see which team can overcome the other and the war that will be waged in order to do it. While USC is a short ride from the venue and they are on a tremendous roll, it’s hard to bet against Penn State right now, especially when getting a touchdown. I’m taking the points.

Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Penn State Nittany Lions plus 7 points.

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NCAA Football Week 4 Betting Previews

Here are some additional game previews from this week's college football card.

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Expert College Football Picks - Free premium college foots plays against the spread from expert handicappers from around the web from week 1 through the National Championship.

Underdog of the Week Pick - We sort through it all and find out which University is getting "too many points" this week. If there was a Heisman Trophy for picking underdogs, we'd be a frontrunner. Expect a 57%+ winning percentage with these picks as we've got a keen ear for loud barking dogs.

Line Movement - NCAA football lines open early in the week and often times move up or down based on wagering activity, injuries to key players and weather. We decipher whether it's square or wiseguy action and predict the point spread winner based on value.

College Football Consensus Picks - We assess the public perception each week and let them pick the winners for us as we fade their selections which provides us with many trips into our bookies endzone.

Computer Picks - We enter them into the computer and the machine makes it's picks. This is a great guide especially when betting totals! These are available after the first few weeks of the season.

Trends - Despite what you have been told or read on tout sites, the trend ain't your friend. We however turn the tables and fade the almighty trend for what should be some great profits over time.

2017/2018 College Football Predictions - Bob gives his picks to win each major conference. At the end, he gives his prediction on who thinks will win the 2018 National Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8th.

2017 Heisman Trophy Predictions - USC QB Sam Darnold is a heavy pre-season favorite to win college football's most coveted award, but Jay isn't buying it. In fact, he's passing up the top (3) favored players in favor of a QB who he's confident will be NCAA football's best player in 2017.

2017-2018 College Football Championship Predictions - NCAA football experts have the Alabama Crimson Tide running away with the National Championship this season and who can blame them? Roll Tide is LOADED! It never happens that easy though. The USC Trojans (+825), Florida St. Seminoles (+850) and Ohio St. Buckckeyes (+875) all have a legit shot. Oddsmakers have Oklahoma (+1300) on the bubble and everybody looking from the outside in at 20/1 or higher. Jay gives his pick to win it all along with how his top 15 rankings for season's end. Get your bets in early before your favorite team's line drops!

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Heisman Trophy Betting Odds - USC QB Sam Darnold starts the season off as a heavy favorite at +350 odds. Sooners QB Baker Mayfield is second on the list at +700 but can he keep his nose clean? Louisville QB Lamar Jackson should dominate this season but will Louisville be taken seriously? Oregon Ducks RB Royce Freeman is worth a pop at 60/1 if he gets the carries. Bama WR Calvin Ridley brings experience and big-time playmaking ability and will be featured on National TV a bunch, giving him a legit darkhorse shot. But will they throw the ball enough with a QB who likes to run? Missing from this year's list of odds is a defensive player.

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