2012 College Football Picks: USC @ Stanford Vegas Odds and Predictions – Free College Football Picks 9/15/2012: Last year, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck entered a matchup with USC as the frontrunner for the Heisman and was on his way to becoming the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. As the two programs prepare to meet this season, it is Trojans’ QB Matt Barkley that has the attention of the Heisman voters and the NFL scouts. Of course, the Cardinal needed three overtimes to escape the Coliseum with a win in 2011, and this time around, the second-ranked Trojans have to head to Palo Alto. Granted, the 21st-ranked Cardinal aren’t the same team now that Luck is under center for the Indianapolis Colts, but USC can’t afford to take a road matchup with a rival lightly, especially if they want to cover the 10-point spread.
In last year’s triple-overtime thriller, Luck and Barkley took turns exchanging haymakers. Both players threw for three scores, and Luck tied the game on a touchdown pass with 38 seconds to go in regulation. The Cardinal ultimately came out on top 56-48 in game where both defenses were overmatched from the opening kickoff. In addition to the 104 total points scored, the two teams combined for just shy of a 1,000 yards of total offense.
Barkley and company should have little trouble putting up big numbers once again. He has the best receiver tandem in the country to throw to in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, and the addition of Penn State transfer Silas Redd to the backfield adds an excellent counterpunch to one of the best passing attacks in the country. With so many weapons at Barkley’s disposal, it is easy to understand why he has already thrown for 10 touchdowns in just two games this season. The group that lit up Stanford’s defense last year is even better in 2012, and the Trojans should be able to put another big total on the scoreboard Saturday.
Stanford, on the other hand, could have serious issues keeping pace in a high-scoring game this time around. The Cardinal were thin at receiver even when Luck was under center, and new starter Josh Nunes doesn’t have the same skill set to compensate. Not to mention the fact that Luck isn’t the only thing missing from this year’s offense. Tight end Coby Fleener was a second-round pick in April’s draft, and the offensive line that paves the way for the power running game lost a pair of starters to the first two rounds of the same draft. The ground attack that remains can still be potent, but Stanford’s offense is a shell of what it was last year, and that is bad news with an offensive juggernaut coming to town.
The X-factor in the game could be USC’s defense. Although the unit is loaded with athletes, the Trojans just gave up 29 points to a Syracuse offense that isn’t exactly known for being a scoring machine. If the Trojans’ defense continues to make mistakes and allows Stepfan Taylor and the Stanford ground game to control the tempo and keep the USC off the field, the Cardinal could hang around in a matchup where they are overmatched on paper.
In the end, this rivalry loses a lot of luster without Luck leading the Stanford offense. As it stands, the Cardinal are a solid running team with a solid defense, facing a USC offense that is next to unstoppable. Barkley and company tore Stanford’s defense to shreds one year ago, and there is no reason to expect anything to change this weekend. Meanwhile, Luck won’t be around to save the day for the Cardinal, and they just aren’t going to be able to keep this game competitive without him.
Prediction: USC Trojans (-10) Cover the Spread
USC @ Stanford Vegas Odds and Total
Line: USC -9
Total: Over/Under 56.5
Television: 7:30 PM EST
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