This Saturday the USC Trojans will get the 2019 season underway with a Week 1 home game against the Fresno State Bulldogs. Kickoff is set for 10:30 EST at the LA Memorial Coliseum and will be televised on ESPN.
Oddsmakers opened up this game with the Trojans as a slim 10.5-point home favorite against one of the top MWC programs. That line has been bet up to USC -13.5. The total opened at 51.5 and is up to 52.5 at most books.
Click on the link for a full look at the Week 1 NCAAF odds and for more links to our game previews.
Vegas Game Preview & Betting Odds: USC vs Fresno State
Fresno State Bulldogs
It’s been quite the first two years on the job for Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford. Not a lot was expected when he took over a team that had just gone 1-11, but in his first year he guided them to a 10-4 record, which included a trip to the MWC title game and a 33-27 bowl win over Houston. Last year he got them to 12-2 and this time won the MWC Championship and added another impressive bowl win over Arizona State.
It’s hard to doubt Tedford given what he’s done the last two seasons, but he will have his work cut out for him in 2019. the Bulldogs only return 9 starters (3 offense, 6 defense). They have to replace a really good quarterback in Marcus McMayion and the 2018 MWC Defensive Player of the Year in Jeff Allison.
Even with these circumstances, Fresno State is still considered to be one of the top teams in the Mountain West this year. You just have to wonder how much of that is based off what we have seen and not the product that will be on the field.
Things did not go well for the Trojans in 2018. The consensus pick to win the Pac-12 South (preseason ranked No. 15) didn’t even get to bowl eligibility with a 5-7 campaign. Head coach Clay Helton has to be counting his blessings that he wasn’t fired, though he knows he’s got to produce in 2019 or he likely won’t be back.
There is reason to think things will get better for the Trojans. While USC only has 11 returning starters (6 offense, 5 defense), they now have an experienced quarterback in sophomore J.T. Daniels, who was thrown into the fire as a true freshmen.
Daniels also figures to see an uptick in production with the addition of new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and his “AirRaid” offense. They are also hoping a more simplified scheme under 4th year DC, Clancy Pendergast, will result in that unit playing up to their potential.
Free NCAAF Pick & Betting Predictions: USC -13.5
I would have to lean towards laying the points with USC at home. I just think the books are giving Fresno State way too much respect here. At the same, this is the least hyped Trojans team that I can remember (all the Pac-12 hype is centered around Washington, Oregon and Utah).
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Sometimes you gotta hit a bit of a rough patch to motivate you to greatness. I’m hoping some of that takes place at USC this year. Not making a bowl with the talent they had, had to be extremely humbling. I think it’s going to have the Trojans playing with a chip on their shoulder in 2019.
Even with a revenge game on deck against Stanford, I expect USC to be 100% locked in on not just beating Fresno State, but sending a message to everyone that they are going to be a player in the Pac-12 this year.
I really think we are going to see J.T. Daniels develop into a star this year. He definitely flashed that “it” factor you love to see in his first year, but he also looked a bit lost. I think he’s going to be a different dude and the hire of Harrell only furthers my confidence in him in 2019.
Harrell did a tremendous job developing Mason Fine in his 3 years as the OC at North Texas. Fine went from completing 59% with a 6-5 TD-INT ratio as a true freshmen (also Harrell’s first year), to completing 63% with 31-15 ratio as a sophomore and 65% with a 27-5 TD-INT ratio as a junior. Fine is already the Mean Green all-time leading passer. In his first year as OC at North Texas, Mean Green improved by 9.6 ppg and in year two he improved by another 10.7 ppg (from 15.2 ppg to 35.5 ppg).
I just don’t see Fresno State being able to keep pace offensively in this one. I don’t have the same excitement over the Bulldogs new OC in Ryan Grubb, who got promoted after being the o-line coach the last two years. You also have a first year starter in senior Jorge Reyna who has only played in limited garbage time and will be working behind an offensive line that lost 4 starters. Not to mention the loss of star wide out KeeSean Johnson, who had 95 catches for 1,340 yards and 8 scores. Give me USC!