It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year. Football’s back and Love is in the air.
Stanford running back Bryce Love was held to 29 yards rushing on 18 carries by San Diego State in the season opener. But the 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up appears primed to kick-start his 2018 Heisman campaign against Southern California, which allowed 308 yards rushing to UNLV in a lackluster 43-21 win.
The Aztecs’ strategy to stack the box against Love backfired, as Cardinal quarterback K.J. Costello carved up their secondary for 332 yards and four touchdowns and receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside had three TD catches and 226 receiving yards in a 31-10 win.
Stanford is looking for double revenge against the Trojans after losing both meetings last season and will have home-field advantage, while USC true freshman quarterback JT Daniels makes his first road start.
“USC struggled against UNLV, and it’s asking a lot for a freshman quarterback to play his first road game against an experienced Stanford team,” Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said. “I think USC is going to have a tough time there.”
The Cardinal, who have covered nine of their last 13 games against USC, are consensus 6-point favorites after the line opened at 3½.
The Trojans are 3-9 against the spread in their last 12 games as road underdogs and have covered only three of their last 15 games (3-11-1 ATS) overall.
Aloha means goodbye to Hawaii’s paltry preseason power rating and hello to a suddenly explosive offense led by quarterback Cole McDonald.
The sophomore threw for 846 yards, nine TDs and no interceptions in leading the Rainbow Warriors to two outright upsets — 43-34 at Colorado State and 59-41 at home over Navy — as double-digit underdogs in his first two career starts.
Salmons said Hawaii has moved up the most in his power rankings.
“It’s crazy. I barely had them above San Jose State (rated No. 130 of 130 teams) in the conference, but that kid (McDonald) is just unbelievable,” he said.
Brigham Young and Liberty are his next two biggest climbers. The Cougars are 3-point favorites over California, which opened as a 5-point favorite in Westgate’s games of the year.
“BYU played to a certain number for like 10 years. Last year was a train-wreck season, but it looks like they’re back where they used to be,” Salmons said.
Give me Liberty
Salmons likes Liberty to cover at Army on Saturday. The Flames drilled Old Dominion 52-10 in their opener and are getting 7½ to 9 points from the Black Knights after the line opened at 10.
“I moved them up 10 points after the first game. I was really impressed with what I saw,” Salmons said. “Army’s offense this year is nothing like last year’s team. They lost their quarterback, and the new quarterback doesn’t run the offense the way they did.”
A William Hill sports book bettor placed a $50,000 three-team parlay on Oklahoma (-30½), Boise State (-33) and Ohio State (-35) and a $50,000 two-team parlay on Oklahoma (-30½) and Ohio State (-35).
The bettor is reportedly the same one who lost at least $150,000 on a Wisconsin-Ohio State parlay in Week 1, when the heavily favored Badgers beat Western Kentucky 34-3 but didn’t cover the 36½-point spread.
Friday’s best bet
Handicapper Lee Sterling has won the Review-Journal College Challenge in two of the past three years, winning last season’s contest with a 35-27-3 (56.5 percent) ATS record.
Sterling (ParamountSports.com) recommends a Friday play on Texas Christian (-22) over Southern Methodist, which was whipped 46-23 by North Texas on Saturday.
“Horned Frog sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson is the real deal,” Sterling said. “He faces a Mustang defense that allowed 26 touchdown passes last year and got off on the wrong foot, allowing North Texas to throw for 461 yards and three TDs.”
(Home team in CAPS)
Liberty (+9) over ARMY
SOUTH CAROLINA (+10) over Georgia
PITTSBURGH (+9) over Penn State
STANFORD (-5.5) over Southern California
ARIZONA STATE (+6) over Michigan State
Last week: 3-2 against the spread