Stanford Cardinal vs. USC Trojans Week 2 Pick
Stanford Cardinal (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. USC Trojans (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS)
College Football Week 2
Date and Time: Saturday, September 7, 2019 at 10:30PM EDT
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
Point Spread: STAN -2.5/USC +2.5 (WagerWeb)
Over/Under Total: 45.5
The Stanford Cardinal take on the USC Trojans at the Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday. Both teams emerged victorious in week one and open up their Pac-12 schedules this week. While both teams won, it was costly for each. The Cardinal beat Northwestern and covered the spread with a 17-7 win at home. But quarterback KJ Costello took a hit to the head and had to leave the game. His status as of press time for this game is questionable. That was nothing compared to the Trojans, who even though they beat Fresno State, 31-23, saw quarterback JT Daniels tear his ACL and go down for the season. Who will be in better shape to cover the spread in week two? For what it’d worth at this point, Stanford’s defense dominated last season’s game with a 17-3 win, also in week two.
USC in Trouble
After a rough 2018 season, the Trojans needed to turn it around this season. Coach Clay Helton is on the hot-seat, as the standards are high for Southern Cal. In week one, in a competitive game with Fresno State, the Trojans didn’t look that great. The fact of the matter is that their prospects with Daniels behind center probably weren’t all that great either. Now, with a true freshman in Kedon Slovis taking over, who knows what things are going to look like? Let’s point out that Fresno State is a pretty good team, leaps, and bounds from the easy-pickings they once were. But Southern Cal looked ragged during the game on both sides of the ball. Players were gassed, plays were mishandled, and Clay Helton was on the sideline with that look on his face. Let’s face it; USC is reeling. They still have superior athletes, and that’s going to bail them out in some spots, especially on offense, but the problems on this team are multifold.
The prospects for USC are grim. This upcoming 5-game stretch contains four opponents who are currently ranked. Three of their next four games are on the road, so this is as good a spot as any to make something good happen. They will face a Stanford team that has some personnel issues of their own. And when Costello went down after taking a forearm to the head in the Northwestern win, replacement junior Davis Mills proved to be quite a falloff. The Trojans still have some good athletes on offense, including a nice 1-2 punch at running back with Vavae Malepai and Stephen Carr, a duo that could really pay off. WR Tyler Vaughns had 11 receptions for 150 yards. Playmaking on offense can still go a long way. And this offense has some weaponry against which the freshman Slovis can lean. And while this is one of the less-ideal spots to throw in a freshman with a super-tough patch of games starting, he did manage to finish second in the QB battle against some pretty ballyhooed players, so maybe that upside can reveal itself sooner than later.
Without the super-talented pieces on offense that USC possesses, the Cardinal were relying heavily on KJ Costello to get it done on that side of the ball. Without him, the offense becomes a diminished force just at the wrong time, taking to the road to start their conference schedule. And their left tackle was also hurt, with Walker Little going down in the game, as well. It’s a tough hit if he misses time, as he’s one of the best around. They may be at quite a firepower deficit this week. Cameron Scarlett is at running back, and he had 97 yards against the Wildcats last Saturday. With Connor Weddington, Michael Wilson, and Colby Parkinson and others, they have some aerial weapons, but the efficient and experienced Costello is a crucial part of that all working.
Stanford Relying on the “D”
When Costello went down against Northwestern, the defense was vital in keeping the team in front. Among their best moments was when Jordan Fox recovered a fumble in the end zone after a strip-sack by senior Casey Toohill, who played well on the day. Corner Paulson Adebo picked off a pass and is one of the top corners in the conference. Getting more big plays is going to be a key against the USC offense. Last season, they held USC to a field goal, and while that point-total is probably a bit hopeful for this matchup, they’re going to need to be on-point. And in scoring as many points as they allowed last week, early signs for 2019 aren’t too shabby for this defense.
Time for the Southern Cal “D” to Step Up
With the offense facing questions in week two, now would be a good time for the USC defense to start matching potential a little closer with on-the-field manifestation. Against Fresno State, they looked like a unit that hadn’t quite gotten it together yet, giving up over 450 total yards. The secondary could need some time to come around, but we don’t know what we’ll really see from the Stanford aerial game this week. A sophomore, redshirt freshman, and a true freshman will rotate at the corner, though they have a real player at safety in Talanoa Hufanga. But with DE Michael Rector and DT Jay Tufele upfront, with ILB Palaie Gaoteote wreaking havoc in the middle, they have a lot of juice in the front-seven and should be able to keep a Stanford running game that hasn’t found a new star in-check.
Take the Points
The status of KJ Costello and LT Walker Little is questionable as of press time, but at the least, you know they won’t be appreciably more-depreciated than their opponent. For what it’s worth, I see Stanford as just being the more “together” football program at this stage. With a coach not on the hot-seat and fewer issues program-wide, they’re just a more stable football program. Not having Costello throws this into a free-for-all from a predictive standpoint. A slew of mistakes on offense would make this a tough road proposition. I see Stanford as the more-appealing pick here getting points. I’ll take the Cardinal.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Stanford Cardinal plus 2.5 points.
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