Max Meyer’s betting previews are part of a weekly column on Reign of Troy to highlight the Las Vegas odds and daily fantasy picks around college football. This week’s edition previews USC vs. Notre Dame game. For entertainment purposes only.
Well, the implications for this game have changed quite a bit over the past few weeks.
USC-Notre Dame was deemed as a contest that could determine one of the spots in the CFB Playoff. Thanks to injuries and coaching controversies, this game now may determine which program stays above the .500 mark this season.
USC opened this week as two-point underdogs, and that line inched to three before the Steve Sarkisian news broke. Now the spread is all the way up to Notre Dame by 6.5. Is the Sark controversy and an interim head coach worth 3.5 points?
One thing I’ve learned with this USC team is to expect the unexpected. In both losses this season, I not only picked USC to win, but to cover the double-digit point spreads. Now the Trojans are an underdog for the first time this season.
I picked Arizona State against the spread earlier as well after throwing out these numbers: USC is 9-0 after a loss in the past 2+ seasons and 15-6 against the spread in the past five seasons following a losing outcome.
The fact is, USC plays with a certain kind of urgency coming off a loss that fans rarely see otherwise.
Now, the Trojans are coming off a loss, with an interim head coach and a rivalry game needed to salvage their season. If this isn’t a game that should be played with the utmost urgency, I don’t know what is.
Here’s the truth: Notre Dame is the better team, even with all of its injuries. The Irish have an advantage over USC on both sides of the trenches. After all, USC’s offensive line has given up 2.6 sacks per game (tied for 95th in college football), and its best offensive lineman, center Max Tuerk, is now out for the season. Oh yeah, and Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith could be the top pick in this upcoming NFL Draft.
Irish running back C.J. Prosise has been dominant this season, and has scored multiple touchdowns in three of the past four games. Quarterback DeShone Kizer has thrown for a touchdown and rushed for a TD in each of the past three games.
I’d probably be more worried in the past with the tandem of a stud running back and dual-threat quarterback, but USC’s rush defense has actually been pretty solid this season. As a team, the Trojans are only allowing 3.92 yards per carry this season. In losses against Stanford and Washington, neither team averaged more than four yards per carry against USC.
The position group, besides offensive line, that will be intriguing to watch for USC is at wideout. This has been a constant strength all season for the Trojans, but injuries bit the unit badly this past week. Steven Mitchell Jr., Isaac Whitney and possibly Darreus Rogers are all out. Expect Adoree’ Jackson to play more on offense given the injuries and importance of the game. And USC will need guys like Dominic Davis and Jalen Greene to step up as well.
Sep 19, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back C.J. Prosise (20) carrie stye ball for a 91 yard touchdown run against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports
The biggest key for USC’s offense this week is third down. The Trojans were 1-13 on third-down conversions in their loss against Washington. This season, USC is only 19-55 converting on third down. That 34.6 percent conversion rate is 101st in college football. On the other side, Notre Dame’s defense has allowed only 23 third-down conversions on 87 attempts, a 26.4 percentage that is 10th best in the country.
Despite all these facts, and Notre Dame having the coaching and home-field advantage, I keep on going back to expect the unexpected. This is a USC football team that rallied around interim coach Ed Orgeron, even though he did not win at Notre Dame. Clay Helton looks to have a similar effect, and it’s clear that USC wants to send a message that this season isn’t quite over yet, despite a nightmarish start.
Notre Dame played Navy last weekend, and killed the Midshipmen. But the result of that game itself isn’t important for USC, it’s how Notre Dame has fared the week after. Navy runs a triple-option offense and plays a physical game, so it’s been tough for the Irish to adjust the week after. Since 2004, Notre Dame is 4-7 the game after playing Navy, including a miserable 1-10 record against the spread.
With the Navy trend, USC’s trend of games following a loss and the extremely low public perception of USC, this is the spot of the year to bet on the Trojans. The cold weather will be an adjustment (which is a big reason why I also like the under), but this just feels like the makings of another bizarre twist in another bizarre USC season. Not only does USC has a great chance of covering, I think it has a good chance of pulling off the upset outright.
Then again, based on the record of my picks this season, maybe this is the fade of the year.
USC vs. Notre Dame Final Score Prediction:USC 31, Notre Dame 28
Best Bet: USC +6.5
Other Pac-12 Bets I Like (or for you to fade):
- Arizona State +7 at Utah
- Oregon State/Washington State over 62.5 points
- Oregon/Washington under 60 points
Last Week’s Record: 2-4 | Season Record: 6-17 | Best Bets Record: 0-4
College Football DFS
Now for the good news: my Saturday DFS CFB picks are back, despite all of the controversy surrounding DraftKings.
With all of USC’s injuries at wide receiver, there are three standout values in my opinion: Adoree’ Jackson at $3,900, Jalen Greene at $3,100 and Dominic Davis at the minimum, $3,000.
I think two of those three players have at least four catches, and there are at least two touchdowns between the three of them. Considering they all cost less than $4,000, it’s a low-risk, high-reward gamble I’m willing to take this week.
Here are my lineups, for now, for the early slate and late slate of games on Saturday. As always, I’ll be tweeting my final lineups from @TheMaxMeyer before the games start.
Here is my lineup:
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