San Jose State and USC kick off at 8:00 PM EST on August 26th, with USC listed as a heavy favorite at -30.5 on the spread. Individuals looking to make a longshot play on San Jose St can find their moneyline at +2500. This article makes predictions and best bets for USC vs San Jose St Week 0 matchup.
When this game kicks off it will have been 229 days since Georgia walloped TCU in the College Football National Championship. USC will hope that they’re the ones on the way to a title, after they were likely a win away from making their first College Football Playoff a year ago. San Jose State does not likely have the same ambitions, but will look to make the statement that they belong on a field with the nation’s best. Let’s take a look at the odds and get into some picks for this Week 0 matchup between USC and San Diego St., one of just two games this weekend featuring a ranked team.
San Jose State Vs. USC Prediction & Pick
Almost above all else, this game is an opportunity to see reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, as he kicks off his final season of college football. Williams, who is all but guaranteed to be picked first in next spring’s NFL Draft, fought through some injuries last year, but put up absolutely fantastic numbers as he racked up over 4,500 yards, and threw 42 touchdown passes compared to just 5 interceptions.
Unfortunately, the season did not end the way he or USC would have preferred; Williams was clearly hampered by an injury in the Pac-12 Championship game, a loss to Utah that probably cost USC a playoff spot, and then he put in a fantastic performance in what was ultimately a dramatic loss against Tulane in the Cotton Bowl.
San Jose had a very interesting 2022 season. They needed a last-minute touchdown to avoid defeat at the hands of FCS Portland State in their first game of the season, but the next week, went down to Auburn and gave them a one-score game after holding a halftime lead. They were pretty competitive in the Mountain West, but lost their bowl game to Eastern Michigan of the MAC. They’ve played USC five times, most recently in 2021, and have lost each meeting, only cracking the 10-point plateau once.
As is usually the case with these early-season Power 5 vs. Group of 5 games, this is going to be a tale of two halves. If all goes according to plan, Williams and USC’s other starters should be out of the game by halftime. The scoring could slow down and the margin could narrow, but there’s no guarantee that USC’s second string takes their foot off of the gas pedal; backup QB Miller Moss is a high talent himself, and will be looking to prove that he’s the man for the job after Williams departs.
San Jose’s defense should be well below average this year, and USC’s, which already raises a few questions, is likely to be pretty diminished when the starters get pulled. The San Jose offense, led by former QB Chevan Cordeiro a year after leading the Mountain West in passing yardage and touchdowns, offers a good amount to be excited about, and if the starters stay in against USC’s backups, the Spartans could put up some points of their own. I’m taking the over in this matchup between offenses that ranked in the top 60 for pace of play a year ago. For the spread, I don’t love a non-football number like 30.5- I’d be interested in seeing live-betting options after the first few drives of the game- but I will lean towards USC, who could very easily be about a score away from covering by the time halftime comes.
San Jose State Vs. USC Odds
USC is a major favorite in this one, with a 30.5 point spread at -112 odds. San Jose is -108 to cover, while both sides of the 67 point total are set at -110.
San Jose State Vs. USC Key Matchups
Check out the matchups that will ultimately decide who covers in USC vs San Jose State.
Caleb Williams vs. San Jose State Pass Defense
Williams isn’t alone on the USC offense by any means, but there will be a definite adjustment to be made after former Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison was selected in the first round of April’s NFL draft. Of course, Williams wasn’t carried by Addison or anyone else in any way shape or form last season; the Heisman winner was fourth among qualifying FBS QBs in PFF’s overall offense grade, and seventh by their passing metric. He should shred a San Jose defense that ranks 121st in FBS in returning defensive production.
The Spartans’ front seven has been gutted, as they lost former conference CPOY defensive ends Cade Hall and Viliami Vehoko, as well as three-time all-conference linebacker Kyle Harmon. This is a major blow for the Trojans, who ranked 50th in PFF’s pass rush rankings last year, compared to 64th in coverage. Most of the secondary is back, headlined by safety duo Chase Williams and Tre Jenkins, but if Williams isn’t pressured, he’s still pretty likely to slice and dice as long as he’s in the game.
San Jose State Offensive Line vs. USC Front Seven
San Jose State’s offensive skill players graded pretty well in most of the categories in PFF’s system, but the o-line struggled when it came to both pass and run blocking; they ranked outside of the top hundred on both lists. Losing at the line of scrimmage is not usually the formula for pulling off an upset, but USC’s pass rush also only ranked 79th, with one of the lower grades for any of their units.
The good news for San Jose State is that their o-line is returning a good amount of its snaps, but the best PFF grade for any of those guys a year ago was just a 61.7, for left tackle Fernando Carmona Jr. Edge rusher Tui Tuipulotu was a major loss for USC in the front seven, but a wave of incoming transfers in the front seven, headlined by former Georgia lineman Bear Alexander, the Trojans hope to not just reload, but improve up front.