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Stanford looks to extend recent run of success against USC

Updated September 7, 2017 - 6:54 pm

I feel UNLV’s pain.

While the Rebels were on their way to the biggest point-spread upset loss in college football history — other than that, it wasn’t too bad — in Saturday’s 43-40 defeat to Howard, I was mired in my own point-spread nightmare.

It pains me to write this, but as Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said, ‘I’m a man, I’m 40,’ and it’s time to man up. I, ahem, went 1-6 on my first seven picks in this space.

I also had the brilliant idea to bet on each of my plays — except, of course, on my only winner, which I had to sweat out Sunday when Virginia Tech held off West Virginia in the final seconds.

Hopefully, my wife isn’t reading this column.

We’ll try to turn things around this week, but for the doubters, feel free to employ the George Costanza corollary and bet on the exact opposite of my picks. My apologies for not suggesting that strategy last week.

There are four marquee games on the board this week in Oklahoma-Ohio State, Auburn-Clemson, Georgia-Notre Dame and Stanford-Southern California.

We’re taking Stanford as a 7-point underdog to USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Cardinal have won their past three meetings with the Trojans by an average of 15 points and seven of nine. Stanford’s losses to USC in that span were by three points apiece, and the Cardinal are 11-3 ATS in their past 14 meetings.

“They’re what you want in a live ’dog,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “They’re well-coached, they run the ball, they’re physical and they know each other well.

“I don’t think you could ask for a better ’dog than Stanford.”

The Cardinal also are 14-2-1 ATS in their past 17 away from Palo Alto, California, and coach David Shaw is 8-2-1 ATS in his past 11 as an underdog.

Running back Bryce Love is looking good as Christian McCaffrey’s replacement at Stanford, rushing for 180 yards and a touchdown in a 62-7 season-opening win over Rice.

The Cardinal have had two weeks to prepare for the Trojans, who were unimpressive in their 49-31 win over Western Michigan on Saturday as 28-point favorites. USC quarterback Sam Darnold, the 5-1 favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, didn’t throw a touchdown pass.

“USC has had a hard time matching up with Stanford, and we certainly saw some vulnerability for the Trojans last week,” Sportsmemo.com handicapper Teddy “Covers” Sevransky said. “What did Western Michigan do? Exactly what Stanford wants to do. They lined up and ran for 263 yards between the tackles.”

Central Florida improved from 0-12 in 2015 under George O’Leary to 6-7 in 2016 under former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost, who has the program back on track behind an offense dubbed “UCFast.”

The Knights started the season fast in a 61-17 win over Florida International and will look to improve to 2-0 against Memphis in a game that was pushed up to Friday because of Hurricane Irma.

We’re backing UCF, a 3-point favorite that has won nine straight over the Tigers. Memphis is on a 3-8 ATS slide, is 5-15-1 ATS in its past 21 on grass and lost three key defensive starters in a sloppy 37-29 win over Louisiana-Monroe as four-TD favorites.

UNLV coach Tony Sanchez wasn’t sent to Siberia after the stunning loss to the Bison. Instead, he and the Rebels were sent to Moscow, Idaho, for a revenge game against the Vandals.

Idaho upset the Rebels 33-30 in overtime last season at Sam Boyd Stadium as two-touchdown underdogs. The Vandals have since won eight games — one more victory than Sanchez has in three seasons at UNLV.

Idaho, which soared from a small underdog to a 6½-point favorite over the Rebels after Saturday’s debacle, covered its past eight games last season and has won six straight overall, including a 61-50 victory over Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

UNLV will score plenty of points this season, but its defense won’t stop anybody and will struggle again in Moscow. We’re laying the points with Idaho.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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