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Stanford Cardinal vs. USC Trojans Point Spread - Pick

Stanford Cardinal (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. USC Trojans (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS)
College Football Week 2
Date/Time: Saturday, September 9, 2017 at 8:30PM EST
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
TV: Fox

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: STAN +7/USC -7
Over/Under Total: 56

The Stanford Cardinal come to the LA Coliseum on Saturday to meet the USC Trojans in week two Pac-12 action. The Cardinal are coming off an early week one 62-7 win over Rice on August 27. An undemanding win and nice little break should put them in a good spot to start conference play against the team favored to win the conference in the Trojans. USC had a little tougher time of it on Saturday, needing a big 4th quarter to beat Western Michigan, 49-31. They didn't break a tie until halfway through the last quarter. But first week bumps aside, they're still the team to beat in the Pac-12 and Stanford might be their leading threat. So for a week two Pac-12 matchup, this is pretty big.

The Cardinal quietly finished last season with a bang and with the win to open the season, they have won seven straight going back to last season, including a big bowl win over a good North Carolina team. David Shaw is in his 7th season as head coach and Stanford looks for big things in the 2017 season. Helping their cause is the return of quarterback Keller Chryst, who missed last year's bowl game after an ACL injury. Against Rice, there appeared to be no residual evidence of a problem, as he threw for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The Cardinal obviously lost a valuable piece of manpower in Christian McCaffrey, who was also a game-changer as a return man. All that production won't be replaced. But if week one is any indication, running back Bryce Love could be Stanford's next great back. He ran for 180 yards on just 13 carries with a touchdown. Cameron Scarlett looks to be a massive contributor this season after rushing for three touchdowns and pulling in a 56-yard reception in game one. The receiving unit is a rising group of youngsters. Guys to watch include freshman Connor Weddington, TE Kaden Smith, Trent Irwin, TE Dalton Schultz, and when he's available, JJ Arcega-Whiteside. The left side of the line should be tremendous with T David Bright and G Nate Herbig, along with a dynamite center in Jesse Burnett.

Any good Stanford team has a defense that does a lot of the team's heavy-lifting. They were good in 2016, ranked in the top 20 in yards allowed while giving up fewer than 21 points a game. Up-front, they might be a bit thin, but feature a terrific anchor piece and likely future NFL contributor Harrison Phillips. The secondary is in good hands with corner Quinton Meeks and Malik Antoine, with Justin Reid moving over to strong safety. At linebacker, there is a huge rotation of young players to join a real standout at the position in Peter Kalambayi. Look for guys like Sean Barton, Jordan Perez, Jordan Fox, and Dylan Johnson to chip in majorly this season.

The Trojans seemed to melt early in the 100-degree heat of LA before they got cooking against WMU on Saturday. Sam Darnold's offense was slow out of the gates, while the Southern Cal defense struggled to contain a WMU run game that put up 263 yards. They were projected to perform better against a Western Mich offense that lost a lot of key pieces from their 13-1 season a year ago. While the results may have painted Southern Cal in an unflattering light, it might also make them realize they have a lot of work to do if they are to become the team a lot of people think they can be.

Helping the Trojans notch their tenth straight win going back to last season was an offense that was able to make up for the lapses on defense. Darnold was certainly part of the problem by throwing two picks, but he also connected big-time with a man in Deontay Burnett that they will count on to be their top receiver after losing a lot of power in that department with some key departures. He had 142 yards on the day. The run-game looked sharp, led by Ronald Jones, II. and his 159 yards and 3 TD scores. Freshman hopeful Stephen Carr had 69 yards and a pair of TD runs, while Darnold ran one in himself.

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With Stanford running the ball the way they do, one is within their rights to call out the USC defense heading into this matchup. At times, they were getting run over by the Western Michigan run game. At the same time, a couple turnovers and a kickoff returned for a TD may have made the "D" look more-vulnerable than it is. They also showed their big-play ability with Marvell Tell, III. returning a pick for a score. LB Porter Gustin also had a big game, as did lineman Rasheem Green, but the run-stop has to get better. At least the opposing aerial attack was held to very little. After all, Western Michigan did start last season 13-0, so they're not just any MAC team. Make no mistake, however, the Southern Cal defense has some work to do before Saturday's game.

Still, those Stanford backers deriving an abundance of comfort from USC's struggles in week one might be missing the point. Playing a season-opener against a team like WMU and a conference home opener against Stanford are two different things and USC should act accordingly. Still, to crown them the cream of the Pac-12 with Stanford looming might be premature. A win could be in the cards this week, but we see a TD in Stanford's favor being a decent value.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Stanford Cardinal plus 7 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Cardinal vs. Trojans game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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