College football forecast: Stanford a team to Love

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

September 8, 2018 02:41 AM
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After getting shut down last week, Stanford running back Bryce Love should put up big numbers against a weak USC run defense.
© USA Today Sports Images

It’s never a bright idea to run into a wall or continue to hit your head against one. Sometimes, that’s the Stanford offensive game plan, however. Hand the ball to Bryce Love even when the defense is expecting it and loading up to stop it.

There was not much to like about that plan last week, when Love was limited to 29 yards on 18 carries. But something great came out of it because conservative Cardinal coach David Shaw realized the forward pass can work wonders and his offense is no longer one-dimensional.

At least five factors favor the Cardinal against Southern California on Saturday night. Home-field advantage, revenge and the better quarterback, running back and wide receiver are on Stanford’s side.

In a 31-10 victory over San Diego State, Love looked nothing like a Heisman Trophy favorite, yet K.J. Costello and JJ Arcega-Whiteside displayed the big-play passing attack that is imperative for Stanford to succeed this season. Costello passed for 332 yards and four scores, with the 6-foot-3 Arcega-Whiteside getting 226 yards and three touchdowns.

The Trojans whipped the Cardinal 42-24 a year ago in L.A., but USC is replacing its top skill-position players and going on the road with true freshman quarterback JT Daniels. The Trojans needed 24 fourth-quarter points to put away UNLV 43-21. USC’s defense allowed the Rebels to rush for 308 yards, a number which should make Love’s eyes light up.

This is a spot to bet against the Trojans’ inexperienced quarterback and a coach, Clay Helton, who is 4-11 against the spread since the beginning of last season.

Love, Costello and Arcega-Whiteside should lead Stanford to the win and cover. Of course, the 3½-point line that was posted early in the week is long gone and 5½ is today’s price. I’ll call for the Cardinal by 10.

Six more plays for Saturday:

* KANSAS STATE (plus-7) over Mississippi State: This is another example of a line move that is no longer a bargain. The Wildcats were getting 9 points a few days ago, but that number was a slight overreaction to Kansas State’s struggles in a 27-24 comeback victory over South Dakota. The Bulldogs are getting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald back from a one-game suspension. K-State coach Bill Snyder is at his best in the home underdog role and he’s 34-14 ATS in all games as a ‘dog since taking over as coach for the second time in 2009.

 

* ARIZONA STATE (plus-5½) over Michigan State: It can be argued the Sun Devils have the better quarterback in Manny Wilkins, who passed for four touchdowns in a 49-7 blowout of Texas-San Antonio. Herm Edwards’ defense was impressive as Arizona State outgained the Roadrunners 503-220. A Michigan State defense that allowed 31 points to Utah State could tire in the desert heat. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio is 1-8 ATS as a road favorite since 2015.

* Other plays: Arizona (plus-4) over HOUSTON; Ucla (plus-30) over OKLAHOMA; SOUTH CAROLINA (plus-10) over Georgia; NEBRASKA (-3) over Colorado.

Last week: 3-4 against the spread

(The losers last week were Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Washington and Louisville. The winners were Michigan-Notre Dame under 47, Brigham Young and Virginia Tech.)

 

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