Stanford Cardinal vs. USC Trojans
Date and Time: Friday, December 1, 2017, 8 p.m. ET
Location: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
Opening College Football Odds: USC -3
Stanford vs. USC TV Coverage: ESPN
Is there a path to get into the CFP for USC? Surely, the Trojans need their resume to ultimately seem better to the Selection Committee than 11-1 Alabama, and we're not sure that will be the case even with a win in this game. Then the Trojans would need to get TCU to upset Oklahoma and still keep their standing beyond TCU.
A win over Washington State would have looked better for sure, but after the Cougars were blasted in the Apple Cup against Washington, that ended those chances. Now, the Trojans are probably just playing for a spot in the Rose Bowl against the loser of the Big Ten Championship Game as the consolation prize.
Stanford has the same reward on the table for a win, though. The Rose Bowl sounds really good to David Shaw and the Cardinal at the moment, especially after an uncharacteristic three-loss season that included a defeat at the hands of San Diego State back in September.
The Cardinal won their last three games of the season, including blowing out Notre Dame with a huge fourth quarter. Two of those three wins came as underdogs against top-10 teams. Could Stanford really nail down three top-10 wins in the last month of the season?
If Stanford is forced to throw the football here, it's going to be in a lot of trouble. K.J. Costello had a nice last game against the Irish on Thanksgiving weekend, but he hasn't thrown for more than 211 yards in a game all season long and only has one game with even 190 yards through the air.
Stanford never led when these two teams met way back in September, a 42-24 win for the Trojans that was truly never that close.
The Cardinal had their moments offensively, but they were held to just 54 snaps for the entire game, just 17 of which went to Bryce Love. If Love doesn't have more rushing attempts than Costello has passing attempts, it's a recipe for disaster for Stanford.
Stanford vs. USC Free Picks
Back in that first game of the season, Sam Darnold looked like a legitimate Heisman Trophy favorite, and the USC offense was unstoppable. In spite of the higher tempo that it operated at, USC held the ball for 34:35 and rolled off 623 yards of offense on 74 plays against what is one of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12.
All Stanford needs is Love to have a massive game, though, and this one can turn on its head. But how realistic can it really be for the Cardinal to get more than 160 yards and a touchdown out of Love in the Pac-12 Championship Game? We're not sure.
In the end, the Trojans are running just as hot as Stanford is, and they're finding ways to win games. Ronald Jones has been revived as one of the better running backs in the country, and that could give an extra dimension to this game that Shaw's men don't see coming.
Darnold will have to avoid beating himself in this game, but if he can keep the picks down to a minimum, this is a game that the Men of Troy should win to get back to the Rose Bowl with an outside shot of hearing their name called for the College Football Playoff on Sunday.
College Football ATS Pick: USC -3 at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: USC 38, Stanford 23