Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, September 5, 2014 at 5:00 PM
Even though the bulk of the college football schedule is still overrun by “paycheck” games that don’t make for appealing television unless you’re an alumnus of a bully, there are still a handful of truly important and potentially thrilling matchups on the card.
Today in the NOTEBOOK, we’ll focus on #14 Southern Cal at #13 Stanford in a huge Pac 12 showdown. It’s possible that this is actually a meeting of top 10 caliber teams given roster talent and USC’s stat performance vs. Fresno State last week. There are many teams in the top 10 right now with question marks because of new quarterbacks. It’s certainly possible that the WINNER of this one will rise to the top five at one point this season. Note that tomorrow’s NOTEBOOK report will focus on #3 Oregon hosting #7 Michigan State in the true college showcase game of the weekend.
Since it’s still so early in the season, our previews will rely on data from last year to set the tone. Soon, we’ll have plenty of 2014-only stats and developments to focus on. Starting with the Trojans…
2013 Record: 10-4 (beat Fresno State 45-20 in Las Vegas Bowl)
2013 Rankings: 72 on offense, 13 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 8 on defense
Quarterback: Cody Kessler (Junior, disappointment so far)
Last Week: beat Fresno State 52-13, winning yardage 702-326
First we have to note that there’s a new head coach. Steve Sarkisian has travelled down the coast from Washington to take over what’s been a disappointing and inconsistent program in recent seasons. Sarkisian’s troops very clearly sent a message last week with over 700 yards of total offense against a Fresno State team that wasn’t supposed to be that helpless of a pushover. You can see that eight starters return on defense. And, Kessler at quarterback is slowly but surely turning into an impact player instead of a placeholder.
2013 Record: 11-3 (lost to Michigan State 24-20 in Rose Bowl)
2013 Rankings: 69 on offense, 16 on defense
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 7 on defense
Quarterback: Kevin Hogan (junior, solid-not explosive)
Last Week: beat Cal-Davis 45-0, winning yardage 461-115
Cal-Davis is just a glorified high school team by Pac 12 standards, and Stanford took it easy on them after jumping to a big lead. Important to us is the fact that only four starters are back on offense. Remember that this is a fairly complex offense even though it relies on the run more than many other teams. Stanford plays “smart” football with create schematics and blocking assignments. That could lead to some sluggishness against the experienced defense of USC.
Las Vegas Line: Stanford by 2.5, total of 54.5
This game opened at Stanford -4. So, it’s VERY important that the line has dropped through the critical number of three. Remember that favorites usually get bet by squares, while sharps wait for the weekend to bet on dogs at the highest line possible. That DIDN’T happen here…as the Wise Guys jumped on USC right off the opener, and bet them so hard that the game dropped through the most important number in football. And, THEN, there wasn’t much buyback on Stanford.
Clearly, the sharps were impressed with those 702 yards from USC last week! But what should YOU do now that the line is only two-and-a-half? Dog money has stopped coming in at that price. JIM HURLEY will make a determination on that as he finalizes his Saturday ticket. USC/Stanford may or may not be part of the mix because there’s a huge schedule and NETWORK only gets you on the best Las Vegas betting options!
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As mentioned earlier, we’ll look at Michigan State/Oregon tomorrow on these pages. Then opening week of the NFL continues with the prime time games. Here’s the schedule for the next several days…
Saturday: College Football TV Preview…Michigan State at Oregon
Sunday: NFL Sunday Night TV Preview…Indianapolis at Denver
Monday: NFL Monday Night TV Preview…San Diego at Arizona
Tuesday: College Football Notes or an MLB Preview
Wednesday: NFL Notes or Royals/Tigers MLB ESPN Preview
Thursday: NFL Thursday Night TV Preview…Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Tuesdays and Wednesdays through the month of September will be floating topics depending on developing stories in either football or baseball. In October, we’ll use those days to preview series and big games in the MLB Playoffs. Don’t worry baseball fans, we haven’t forgotten about you after a great summer!
Be sure you watch USC/Stanford in that 3:30 p.m. TV window Saturday on ABC (12:30 p.m. Las Vegas time) because there will be several huge games involving both of those teams throughout the rest of the season (the Pac 12 is loaded and both teams also play much-improved Notre Dame!). And, watch yourself win a fortune all season long with BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!