Western Michigan Broncos (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. USC Trojans (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Saturday, September 2, 2017 at 5:15PM EST
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
By Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WMU +27.5/USC -27.5
Over/Under Total: 58
The Western Michigan Broncos make the long trip to the LA Coliseum to face the USC Trojans in week one action on Saturday. USC finished the year in fine fashion last season and were one of the better teams in the nation by seasons end. They hope to parlay that into big success this season. On the surface, Western Mich looks to be a reasonable-enough season opener, but lets not forget that the Broncos were 13-0 last season before losing in a bowl game to a really good Wisconsin team in a one-score contest.
Western Michigan was terrific last season, beating two Big Ten teams on the road, while annihilating their MAC opponents. But as is often the case in college ball, yesterdays smiles turn into todays frowns. The coach who uplifted the program, PJ Fleck, took a job in the Big Ten. Four-year starter QB Zach Terrell is gone and WR Corey Davis was the fifth pick in the draft. Thats a lot of strategic wizardry and physicality to replace and its hard to not project a significant downturn this season. And lets face it; its not going to be easy for them to find their footing on a long road trip against one of the best teams in the land in the cavernous LA Coliseum. To say the least, the Broncos will be out of their element in this one.
Head coach Tim Lester takes over at WMU and still has some pieces with which to work. A former QB coach, hes hoping he can get new starting quarterback Jon Wassink pointed in the right direction. There will be some new wideouts in the fray, as well, to go along with DWayne Eskridge. This doesnt paint the rosiest outlook. But a good line and a stocked backfield can take a sad song and make it better. Backs Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan combined for nearly 2300 yards and LeVante Bellamy looms as an interesting possibility.
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The WMU defense should still be fairly stout. There are a couple studs in the secondary, with S Justin Tranquill and corner Darius Phillips, who also serves as a dangerous return man. There isnt much drop-off in the second level, with players like Asantay Brown and Robert Spillane. Up-front, Eric Assoua is good against the run, while applying a stready pass-rush. As good as the defense may be, were not so sure it will shine in this context.
With Southern Cal, they have a potent offense led by Sam Darnold, a Heisman frontrunner who resuscitated this program last season when it looked like USC would be mediocre at best. The last two months of the season saw the Trojans looking as good as anyone. While some key pieces return, like Darnold, the team returns only ten starters and has some voids to fill if they hope to capitalize off the enormous promise shown last season.
The offense looks pretty good for USC. Darnold will be working with a nice running back package with Ronald Jones II and AcaCedric Ware. He has a rising commodity at tight end with Daniel Imatorbhebhe (questionable), who shined as a freshman last season. Losing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers deprives Darnold of two of his major aerial weapons from last season, but Deontay Burnett and Jalen Greene will be good. Young talent is always lying in wait. And when trying to work in new pieces, it helps to have a strong line, which the Trojans do with a front packed with upperclassmen. Seniors C Nico Falah and G Viane Talamaivao are joined by juniors T Chris Brown, T Chuma Edoga, and LG Toa Lobendahn.
USCs hopes of making a national splash would seem to hinge on the other side of the ball where there is more work to be done. Two starters in the 3-4 formation must be replaced up-front. They have a useful end in Rasheem Greene, but some other talent will need to manifest to keep this from being a problem area. At least the middle is strong where 3 of 4 starting linebackers return. Porter Gustin, Uchenna Nwosu, and Cameron Smith will man the outside and should both offer massive production. John Houston, Jr. moves inside and this is the shining light of the D. The secondary was 65th against the pass last season and that was with standout Adoree Jackson. Marvell Tell III and Chris Hawkins are good enough safeties, but Iman Marshall needs a running mate at corner who can produce.
There is something about this game that makes a USC pick almost too easy. On one hand, they return after a season where they looked as strong as any team in the nation by seasons end. They are at home against a small-conference school making a long trip to a building that is exponentially bigger than most places theyve played. On top of that, the bulk of what created last seasons WMU magic has departed. The story sort of writes itself, doesnt it? Well, a lot of those stories end up having bad endings. Its been a number of years since anyone blew out Western Michigan. USC has enough questions of their own and might be a bit subdued in an unthreatening matchup like this against a team with which they have no history or axe to grind. I see WMU having enough of last seasons pixie dust floating around their locker-room to keep this closer than the spread.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Western Michigan Broncos plus 27.5 points.
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