Today's Free Picks for
Posted Friday at 1:15 PM EST
10:30 PM EST. There is no question that the Trojans have played the tougher schedule this season. USC has already faced Western Michigan, Stanford, Texas and a much improved Cal squad while Washington State has faced Montana State, Boise State, Oregon State and Nevada. Oregon State and Nevada are two of the worst defensive clubs in Division I and Wazzu torched them both. While we have our reservations about getting behind a team that plays a weak schedule, we have to put that aside here for several reasons. You see, the Trojans come in with their #5 high ranking and what that means is that one must pay an inflated priced to back them in a nationally televised game. Not only are the Trojans ranked highly but their QB, Sam Darnold, is getting a massive amount of press, which also inflates the price on the Trojans. Sam Darnold really is as good as they say he is. He’ll make throws that will make you go WOW. However, the line protecting him is weak, which results in Darnold having to get rid of the ball sooner than he would like to. That in turn has led to USC turnovers every week.
Sam Darnold can and has done it on his own. However, playing on the road against a very explosive offense changes the dynamics. USC has been home for three games with its only road game occurring at Cal last week. The Trojans would go onto a 30-20 victory but Cal, as a 17-point dog, had that game tied at the half and tied going into the fourth quarter. None of USC’s victories this year have been easy. It took the Trojans double OT to sneak by Texas last week and they couldn’t put Stanford or Western Michigan away until the fourth quarter but the market will largely ignore the danger signs associated with spotting significant road points with this flawed favorite.
What you may read about is how nearly every game between these two – regardless of the time, the date, the place or the tint of the jerseys worn that day – has gone awry for the Cougars. USC has won 87 percent (59 of 68) of the ones that didn’t end in a tie and minus blips in 2013, 2002 and 2000, the Trojans have won every game played between these two this millennium. Most haven’t been particularly close, either. The last five USC victories: 44-17 in 2014, 50-16 in 2010, 27-6 in 2009, 69-0 in 2008 and 47-14 in 2007. We couldn’t care less, as useless trends also influence the market. A result in 2009 has zero impact on this one.
Fact is, this USC team hasn’t yet been tested in front of a tough road crowd (sorry, Golden Bears) and the Trojans also haven’t left the state of California for a game since Week 10 last season. It’s a short week for both, but in theory that’s always tougher on the team that’s traveling – and no road trip in the Pac-12 is more awkward than the one to Pullman. The Trojans have a knack for slow starts while the Cougars have a knack for starting fast. USC’s QB has thrown seven picks, Wazzu’s has thrown one.
Even though State hasn’t been tested, maybe they’re really good. What we know for sure is that turnovers are the biggest deciding factor in which team covers the number and we already discussed why the Trojans are turning it over. With the way Darnold is running for his life every week, it would be unreasonable not to expect one or more turnovers again this week from the Men of Troy. Washington State has to be sick of being the Trojans whipping boy for years but now Mike Leach brings his best chance to win this game since he’s been here. Wazzu is a well-coached but mostly overlooked team with a chance to make some noise at the end of September. The Cougars are moving off a well-timed easy win over Nevada into the most unforgiving portion of the schedule. On the balance this bunch is a legitimate threat to dislodge USC from its customary superior position over them, we’re taking the inflated points for sure while the hype train is still rolling on USC. Sam Darnold is great but USC is not.
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WASHINGTON ST +6 -108 (Risking 2.16 units - To Win: 2.00)