USC vs. Arkansas State Betting Preview


College football is back! Who’s ready for the tailgates? The marching bands? And most importantly, the betting?

RELATED: Breaking Down USC’s Week 1 Depth Chart Unit by Unit

I will be writing a betting preview for each USC game this season, along with a quick look at other Pac-­12 games and college football daily fantasy, though unfortunately USC’s player prices have not been released yet.

Let’s start off with USC­Arkansas State though. Currently in Vegas, USC is a 28­-point favorite, with an accompanying point total of 68.5.

Since many of you know quite a bit about the Trojans, here’s a look at their opponent.

This is the first time since 2010 that Arkansas State’s head coach is returning for a second season. That’s right: the Red Wolves have had five coaches over the previous five seasons.

Blake Anderson’s team played two Power 5 foes early on last season, losing 34-­19 at Tennessee in Week 2 followed by a 41­-20 at the hands of Miami in Week 3. Just like you’d expect with a team under any first-­year coach, there were some growing pains. Arkansas State averaged only 25 points per game in its first five contests last season. That number jumped to 44 over the last eight.

Senior quarterback Fredi Knighten leads the Red Wolves’ up­tempo, no­huddle offense. Knighten passed for 24 touchdowns and 3,277 yards in 2014 during his first full season. His completion rate was 62.3 percent, and only threw seven interceptions in 432 attempts.

Jan 4, 2015; Mobile, AL, USA; Arkansas State Red Wolves quarterback Fredi Knighten (9) drops back to pass against the Toledo Rockets during the first quarter of the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The scariest part about Knighten’s game, at least for USC, is his ability to run. Knighten rushed for 779 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Arkansas State also has running back Michael Gordon, who helped the offense with 1,110 rushing yards in 2014.

Add in three wideouts who each had over 600 receiving yards last season, and you can see that the Red Wolves are explosive.

Looking back last season for USC, the Trojans faced two opponents who had a quarterback and running back combine for at least 1,800 rushing yards: Boston College and UCLA.

In USC’s first game without Leonard Williams, and with Claude Pelon doubtful, I think the rush defense will struggle a decent amount against Arkansas State.

On defense, Arkansas State pretty much runs a boom­-or-­bust 4-­2-­5 defense. The Red Wolves blitz a lot, which leads to a lot of turnovers, but also a plethora of big plays.

Arkansas State’s run defense was pretty abysmal last season, surrendering a whopping 4.72 yards per carry, which was 90th in the country. With Justin Davis doubtful, expect Tre Madden to take advantage of his increased workload in a big way.

These blitzes will leave USC’s skill players in one­-on­-one matches a lot of the time, and Arkansas State simply doesn’t have the athletes that can cover JuJu Smith-­Schuster, Steven

Mitchell Jr., and good luck with Adoree’ Jackson.

It also doesn’t help that the Red Wolves had to replace both of its starting cornerback and two of its starting safeties this season.

USC has won its last 17 season openers, and it shouldn’t have a problem on Saturday. Twenty-eight, however, is a lot of points to lay when going up against an explosive offense like Arkansas State’s and the high possibility of the first­team offense not playing the entire game.

As much as Steve Sarkisian would love to give Cody Kessler’s Heisman campaign an early boost, he needs to prepare Max Browne for 2016 by giving him some solid playing time this season. Don’t be surprised if Kessler only plays three quarters, and USC puts one foot on the brake in the fourth quarter.

That’s a big reason why I can’t recommend taking USC against the spread in what will be a high­-scoring affair.

USC vs. Arkansas State Final Prediction:

USC 52, Arkansas State 28.

Best Bet:

USC vs. Arkansas State OVER 68.5 points

Other Pac­12 bets I like:

1. Arizona State +3.5 vs. Texas A&M

2. Washington/Boise State under 56 points

(The best bet earlier this week was Arizona/UTSA over 50 points, but that line has already jumped to 60.5).

More from Reign of Troy

Having trouble? Listen on Soundcloud.