In what was once an annual matchup between top contenders in the Pac-12, the final iteration of Stanford vs. USC before the conference dissolves will be a College Football Playoff hopeful hosting a team that is just barely clinging on in the new era of the sport. That being said, we’ve seen some remarkable upsets in this rivalry before, so let’s dig into the odds for this one, where my prediction is for Stanford to cover a 30.5 point spread.
Stanford Vs. USC Prediction & Pick
More than almost any other, this rivalry’s recent history has been defined by upsets. That list of course starts in 2007, when 41-point underdog Stanford, coming off of a 1-11 season, went into the LA Coliseum with their backup QB and took down a USC team that many viewed as the best in the nation. With head coach Jim Harbaugh at the helm, the win sparked a new era for Stanford, and the rivalry. In 2009, unranked Stanford pulled off another road upset of #9 USC, and did it at home in 2012 while ranked #21 against a second-ranked Trojans squad.
USC has returned the favor as well; #5 Stanford was unable to beat unranked USC in 2013, ending their BCS National Championship hopes. Of course, Stanford turned things back around in 2015 as they took down #6 USC while they themselves were unranked, spurring one of the most memorable seasons in school history. USC swept the season series in 2017, en route to a conference title, and beat #23 Stanford as an unranked squad in 2019. Once more, Stanford did the job at the Coliseum in 2021, beating #14 USC while unranked, and they’ll try to do it again this season.
The past is the past, but there is an undeniable trend of Stanford pulling off the unthinkable. This should be the worst team they’ve had since 2007, but they showed some positives in week one against Hawaii. QB Ashton Daniels threw for two touchdowns and no picks, separating himself from a crowded position group. Daniels forged an important connection with star tight end Benjamin Yurosek, linking up nine times for 138 yards and a touchdown.
USC’s offense is a strength to an exponentially higher degree. It’s nearly the best in the country, with 122 points scored across their first two games as reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams has continued to be absolutely fantastic. There should be plenty of scoring in this one, as the Trojans have put in some dismal defensive performances against low-caliber opponents, such as surrendering 28 points to San Jose State.
The over is an excellent play at 68.5; it’s hard to imagine USC’s total ending up lower than the mid-40s, and it’s unlikely that Stanford fails to match Nevada and San Jose State’s production levels. For the spread, 30.5 is too big of a number for an in-conference rivalry matchup; with this game’s legacy of hard-fought contests, the issues with USC’s defense, and the positive trends exhibited by Troy Taylor’s squad against Hawaii, Stanford +30.5 is the play.
Stanford Vs. USC Prediction & Best Bet: Stanford +30.5 / Over 68.5
Stanford Vs. USC Odds
USC is favored by 30.5 at home, with -105 odds to cover compared to -115 for Stanford. With the total set at 68.5, the over and under both have -110 odds to hit.
Stanford Vs. USC Key Matchups
USC O-Line vs. Stanford Pass Rush
Stanford’s secondary is not going limit Williams through their performance alone. They’ll need the pass rush to make him uncomfortable, something San Jose State and Nevada almost entirely failed to do. The Cardinal did very well creating pressure against Hawaii; early on, they’re ranked as PFF’s 29th-best pass rush, and put Rainbow Warriors QB Brayden Schager on the ground for six sacks. Edge rusher David Bailey was a standout as he recorded half of those sacks and earned a PFF grade of 86.6 for his efforts.
USC’s o-line is 12th in PFF’s pass blocking rankings after a couple of outings, making this a pretty exciting early matchup in the trenches. Tackle Jonah Monheim has earned a PFF pass blocking grade over 90 from the first couple of games, while most of USC’s linemen have been above 80. Protecting Williams will be a bigger challenge this week than in the last two; I believe that this line can do a good job for the most part, but will have its lapses, creating a situation where USC scores plenty of points to contribute to the over, but Stanford is able to keep things within a margin of 30 points.
Stanford Skill Players vs. USC Secondary
The Cardinal offensive line is probably not going to be able to stand up to USC’s talented front seven enough to run the ball or go deep effectively, so it will be key for Daniels’s receivers to create some space fast enough to give their quarterback some quick-hit passing options. Yurosek is the top option by a mile and a half, the 6’4” 243-pounder is an imposing target who gets separation quickly off the line, and is the latest in a line of NFL-bound Stanford tight ends. Wideouts John Humphreys and Elic Ayomanor both caught three balls against Hawaii, and Humphreys found the end zone; they will both be hoping for more this week.
While it’s not the worst unit in the country, USC’s secondary is definitely a relative point of weakness for a good Trojans squad. They haven’t recorded a single interception yet, despite going up against Group of Five opponents and leading for the entirety of both games. Christian Roland-Wallace has been a relative bright spot and the team’s top corner, while safety duo Calen Bullock and Max Williams have also done a good job. This secondary is far from watertight, which is why I really like Stanford to keep this one from becoming a total blowout.
Stanford Vs. USC Sportsbook Promo Codes