The Fresno State Bulldogs, champions of the Mountain West Conference, get a shot at one of the big boys from the Pac-12 Conference when they take on the USC Trojans in the Las Vegas Bowl Saturday, Dec. 21.
Fresno State is working on one of its best seasons ever and capping it off with a bowl victory over a program like Southern Cal would be icing on the cake.
The Trojans, meanwhile, struggled through the early part of this season, fired their head coach and then won five in a row. Now, as the big-conference bully, they're favored by almost a touchdown for this bowl.
Point spread: The Trojans opened as six-point favorites; the total was 62.5, as per Odds Shark.
Odds Shark computer prediction: 43.8-35.4 Fresno State Bulldogs
Why the Bulldogs can cover the spread
Fresno State has had some good teams in the recent past, but it hadn't won an outright conference championship in over 20 years. Last year, the Bulldogs tied for the MWC title, and this year they won it, beating Utah State in the first Mountain West Conference championship game last week, 24-17.
FSU won its first 10 games, beating four bowl-bound teams along the way, before falling in a shootout at San Jose State, ending its BCS hopes. With QB Derek Carr throwing for nearly 5,000 yards and 48 TDs, no team in college football possesses a more potent passing game. USC is a little vulnerable versus the pass, which may sway the Las Vegas Bowl odds closer to kickoff.
Why the Trojans can cover the spread
Southern Cal started 3-1, but after a blowout loss at Arizona State, in which the Trojans gave up over 600 yards and 62 points, the school fired head coach Lane Kiffin. Under interim coach Ed Orgeron, USC later won five games in a row, although it laid an egg in a season-ending loss to UCLA.
Now, Orgeron is gone, as the Trojans lured Steve Sarkisian away from Washington. So the team will be handled by offensive coordinator Clay Helton for this bowl.
The Trojans have beaten five bowl-bound teams already this year, highlighted by an “upset” of eventual Pac-12 champion Stanford just a few weeks ago. And of their four losses, two came by a total of seven points. With a little luck, they could be 10-2. They are 7-2 against the spread (ATS) in nine recent bowl games.
Oh, to get a repeat of the last time these two teams met—that classic 50-42 USC victory at the Coliseum back in 2005. The Trojans made a nice run for Coach Orgeron, and outside of that debacle at Arizona State, their defense has been pretty good.
But Fresno State can move the ball and showed good resilience by bouncing back from that deflating loss against San Jose State, playing very well in beating a pretty good Utah State team last week.
Motivation plays a part here, too. FSU will be itching to prove itself against a USC team that will be trying to avoid the upset. The computer picks the underdog in an upset, so take the 'Dogs plus the points.
- Fresno State 1-5 ATS in its past six bowl games.
- USC is 7-2 ATS in its past nine bowl games.
- The Bulldogs were 11-1 straight up this season but just 5-7 ATS.
Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.