USC Trojans (6-2 SU, 1-7 ATS) vs. Arizona Sun Devils (4-3 SU, 4-3 ATS)
College Football Week 9
Date/Time: Saturday, October 28, 2017 at 10:45PM ET
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: USC -3/ASU +3
Over/Under Total: 58
The USC Trojans come to Tempe to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday. USC is 6-2 and has covered one solitary spread on the entire season, underlining what a letdown theyve been. They really seemed to hit a wall last week in a tough 49-14 loss to Notre Dame. They face another tough road game in the desert this week against a surging Arizona State team that has really gotten on a roll, beating Washington and Utah in consecutive games as a large underdog. Can they turn the trick again this week or will Southern Cal finally snap out of their funk?
ASU was competitive on the road against Texas Tech and against Stanford earlier in the season, but it was still hard to see this latest spurt coming. Against an unbeaten and highly-ranked Washington team, their defense held them to 7 points in a 13-7 win at this stadium. And to beat Utah on the road, 30-10, as 10-point dogs the next week shows those overlooking Arizona State will be doing so at their own peril. Theyve made a mockery of the point spread in the last two weeks. Their last two spreads have been beaten by combined 53.5 points. I think its fair to start looking at the Sun Devils a bit differently at this point. Its hard to not like the Sun Devils and what theyve done the last few weeks.
Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins has been better this season in his second year as a starter. He should surpass 2000 yards passing in this game and has thrown only three picks. He has thrown 8 TD passes and run in another three for good measure. He has been providing a nice presence behind center, especially in the last few weeks. And beating two good conference teams has likely helped him mentally, as well. He gets help with a couple dangerous backs in Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage, who both have five TD runs and are a threat to explode at any time. After a promising freshman campaign, receiver NKeal Harry has been terrific with 51 catches, supported in the pass-catching corps by Jalen Harvey and Kyle Williams.
The Arizona State defense is not ranked high in any area. They give up an average of over 250 yards per game through the air and can be exploited by the opposing run-game, as well. At the end of the day, the bottom-line speaks loudest and giving up a total of 17 points in games against Washington and Utah is a very positive development for a defense that gave up 31 to New Mexico State, 52 to Texas Tech, and 35 to Oregon earlier in the season. But theyre still dangerous, able to get after the quarterback and with the ability to turn the big play, as they have done this season, especially recently. The four picks they got against Utah were huge. In the pass-rush department, linebackers Koron Crump and Alani Latu have been big, along with lineman JoJo Wicker. They look for more of the same this week.
Southern Cal just hasnt been able to get the most of what they have this season. Fancied by many to do huge things this season, we never really saw the version of the Trojans that ended last season in such great form. Still, they were winning and after a narrow loss to Washington State, they got back in the win-column with wins over Oregon State and Utah. But they havent covered the spread since a week two win over Stanford and kept getting worse, culminating in a horrible performance against the Fighting Irish last Saturday where they werent the slightest bit competitive. Making it hard for the Trojans has been a slew of never-ending injuries on both sides of the ball.
The Trojans offense has been bitten by the injury bug, making it hard to establish continuity on this side of the ball. There is no questioning Sam Darnolds talent, but mistakes and injuries on this side of the ball have hurt. He has ten picks and has also coughed it up a number of times. Ronald Jones has been decent at running back, but not having electric Stephen Carr back there has hurt. Deontay Burnett has been a dependable target, but finding consistent performers around him has been problematic. Steven Mitchell, Tyler Vaughns, and Tyler Petite fill out the aerial production for the Trojans. Its a dangerous offense, but as we saw on Saturday and at other times this season, its an underachieving group.
The Trojans defense has really been battered by injuries. Its to the point where the projected USC defense at the beginning of the season bears little resemblance to the unit theyre trotting out there right now. And theyve paid the price, getting worse as the season progresses. The Fighting Irish put up 377 yards on the ground against this group and almost 500 total yards last Saturday. In key moments, this D disappeared. Granted, they will find things easier this week, but after looking so bad on Saturday, even this Sun Devils bunch has to be licking their chops. They really need their playmakers to surface. In the secondary, they need Jack Jones and Marvell Tell to start making big plays again, with more pass-rush from guys like Christian Rector, with a lot of their pass-rush skills shelved with injuries.
This is a strange matchup in a lot of ways, with both teams having shown a wide range of play from week to week. At the same time, ASU is making due with what they have and seems to be overachieving. Conversely, a battered USC team hasnt really seen their engine turn over properly yet this season and their last game might have them in the dumps. Theyve bounced back before and normally, a game against ASU would be a time to get well. But if we peel back the layers, the Sun Devils are playing a lot better and deserve a hard look this week in this spot as a home dog.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Arizona State Sun Devils plus 3 points. – Move the line on this game up to 20 points by inserting it into a 20 point football teaser at the web’s best sportsbook: 5dimes!