Handicapper likes Stanford to cover against USC

Early this week, the Supreme Court ended a 13-year trademark battle between the University of Southern California and University of South Carolina over which school owned the rights to the interlocking letters “SC.”

Chalk one up for the Trojans, as the Supreme Court ruled in their favor.

But the Gamecocks are ranked No. 19 in the latest Associated Press poll, and Southern California is unranked.

The Trojans rank No. 99 in the NCAA in total defense, allowing an average of 418.8 yards per game against a smorgasbord of middle-feeding offenses not to be confused with the Oregon Ducks.

The USC-Stanford matchup today illustrates just how quickly the pecking order can shift in college football.

In 2007, the Trojans closed as 41-point home favorites over Stanford, and the Cardinal stunned No. 2 USC, 24-23. Two years ago in Palo Alto, the Trojans were 24-point favorites over the Cardinal.

Last year, USC closed as a 10½-point home favorite, but Stanford disposed of the Trojans 55-21, with coach Jim Harbaugh rubbing it in by calling for a 2-point conversion late in the blowout.

In what completes more than a 50-point spread swing in just three years, Stanford is a 9½-point home favorite today.

Maybe some think the Trojans, who have little to play for this season because of NCAA sanctions, can simply flip a switch and bring their ‘A’ game. But count this handicapper outside of that group.

Go with the Cardinal and quarterback Andrew Luck to cover the spread.

Here are six more plays for today (home team in CAPS):

■ Michigan State-MICHIGAN (Over 64½) — The Wolverines rank No. 102 in total defense, allowing 433.6 yards per game against mostly mediocre competition. There is a silver lining, however. At least, they do not have to chase their own quarterback, Denard Robinson.

■ NORTH CAROLINA STATE (-9½) over Boston College — Turnovers and a 92-yard kickoff return to open the second half doomed the Wolfpack in last week’s 41-30 home loss to Virginia Tech. Boston College has scored a total of 39 points against three Division I opponents and lacks the firepower to trade punches with Russell Wilson and his collection of big-bodied receivers.

■ NORTH CAROLINA (-2½) over Clemson — North Carolina has gradually regained some of its missing pieces from the eligibility crisis that rocked the team. Clemson, meanwhile, clearly misses last year’s most outstanding college football player, C.J. Spiller, now with the Buffalo Bills.

■ FLORIDA (-6½) over Louisiana State — Although unspectacular in its opening five games, Florida has been a nice moneymaker off a straight-up loss under coach Urban Meyer. The Gators are primed to rebound against an LSU squad that has won with smoke and mirrors.

■ Arkansas (-5½) over Texas A&M — The Aggies have performed miserably outside the Big 12 against superior competition in recent years, as evidenced by just one cover in their past 13 games when cast as a nonconference underdog. If you think Oklahoma State throws the ball all over the yard, wait until you see Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and one of the nation’s top receiving corps at Cowboys Stadium.

■ SOUTHERN METHODIST (-6½) over Tulsa — Winners of a total of two games during the 2007 and ’08 seasons, the Mustangs have generated some excitement in coach June Jones’ third year. Tulsa has covered at a rate of just 36 percent over the past 10-plus seasons as a road ‘dog.

Last week: 4-3 against the spread

Season: 16-16-1

Texas-based handicapper Paul Stone of Vegassportsauthority.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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