The USC Trojans are coming off a disappointing season that saw them finish strong despite some turmoil on the sidelines with head coach Lane Kiffin fired early on, winning six of eight games following his dismissal and going 5-3 against the spread.
Meanwhile, the Fresno State Bulldogs were USC’s final victim to close out last year. USC was just one of the two teams to beat the Bulldogs as Fresno State went 11-2 SU and 5-8 ATS in 2013.
Point spread: Trojans opened as 21.5-point favorites; the total was 58 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 40.9-36.7 Bulldogs
Why the Fresno State Bulldogs can cover the spread
The Bulldogs will be out for revenge in this spot after getting blown out by the Trojans 45-20 as 4.5-point underdogs in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl last December 21. USC wide receiver Marqise Lee burned them for 118 yards and two touchdowns in that game, and he is now playing for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fresno State has played well as a road underdog over the past few seasons, going 7-1 against the spread in that spot, including covers at Oregon and Tulsa during the 2012 season. The Bulldogs were favored in every game last year except for the bowl matchup with the Trojans, and they covered the previous two meetings in the series.
Why the Southern Cal Trojans can cover the spread
The Trojans had three different coaches last year, including Kiffin, interim coach Ed Orgeron and his replacement for the bowl game, Clay Helton. Orgeron did not want to coach the team after USC decided to bring back former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian from Washington as the permanent replacement rather than retain Orgeron.
Through all of that mess, the players stuck together and delivered, especially returning quarterback Cody Kessler, who completed 22 of 30 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns against Fresno State in the last meeting.
The junior performed admirably down the stretch considering the circumstances, and he gives the team a proven leader heading into the 2014 season.
Despite the Bulldogs’ somewhat recent success as road dogs, they did not play well early last season, failing to cover their first four games, winning them by an average of less than six points when they were favored by double digits three times.
Fresno will also be without former star QB Derek Carr, who struggled against USC before heading to the NFL.
The Trojans should finally have stability with the hire of Sarkisian, and he was their QB coach when the Bulldogs nearly pulled off a monster upset in a 50-42 road loss back in 2005. Sarkisian will not take Fresno lightly in his return, and USC should fight on to a huge victory in Saturday’s season opener.
- Fresno State is 10-3 ATS in its last 13 games on the road
- FSU 7-1 ATS past eight games as road underdogs
- UNDER is 10-2 past 12 games when USC is home chalk
Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.