When you assume, you make an a** out of U and ME – that’s the saying among engineers.
When it comes to high-action programs like Stanford, Southern Cal or the Pac-12 in general, football odds-makers rely on facts and not assumptions. The lines in Vegas are precisely determined by factors such as results, trends, talent, size and speed.
The sports bettor cannot search for any old hiccup in the casino handicapper’s board. It’s better to look for scenarios that almost the entire football community is clueless about. A mistake of that nature is one the betting action itself (or the sportsbook boss) will be unable to resolve before the clock has struck midnight.
A widespread myth is manipulating the odds and action as Bryce Love and the Stanford Cardinal prepare to host the USC Trojans in an early matchup of Pac-12 powers.
What’s the myth? That blue-chip freshman QBs are not mistake prone, and won’t face hardships over the course of the season. They almost all looked phenomenal last week, so nothing will go wrong this week. Right?
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa was a star in Week 1, along with former starter Jalen Hurts, in the Tide’s thrashing of Louisville. Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray was 2 misses away from a perfect game and added a couple of touchdown passes in a dominant victory over Florida Atlantic. The June Jones era is being echoed in the Pacific islands after 2 weeks of a surprising Run-and-Shoot circus courtesy of Hawaii’s Cole McDonald.
Rounding out the group is freshman J.T. Daniels of the USC Trojans. Diehard USC fans were inspired by the kid’s passing prowess in their opening victory against UNLV, as well as his past performances as a California prep sensation.
The media is gushing. Tagovailoa has been practically labeled a god from Mount Olympus by the usually straight-faced Kirk Herbstreit. Despite an anticipated switch from the gridiron to the diamond, Murray looks to become one of football’s most famous figures in his season at the helm for Oklahoma. What about Daniels? The youngster kept his composure after UNLV claimed an early advantage, and hit receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for a huge touchdown in the 43-21 victory.
Stanford’s K.J. Costello, a battle-tested junior, had a similar performance to open the season. The Aztecs struck first as the San Diego State defense went all-out to stop the Cardinal’s Heisman candidate. Love easily had one of the worst performances of his career with 29 yards on 18 carries. But Costello seized the opportunity to hoodwink a defense dedicated to stifling the running attack, and threw 3 touchdown strikes to guide Stanford to a 31-10 victory.
It would be foolish to predict any frosh QB’s year will be picture-perfect sunshine for 3+ months. The gun-slingers who are more experienced will maneuver through challenging obstacles when adversity strikes. Costello was clutch when the running game was not clicking on Saturday. It remains to be seen if the teenager Daniels could have the same composure under the same scenario.
That likely explains the (-5) point advantage sportsbooks are giving Stanford. But would the Cardinal be a heavier favorite if Daniels and other green-horn QBs were not being given premature credit as instant world-beaters?
USC might be a fantastic football team in 2018-19, but its adversaries are building on proven results with proven talent. It would be foolish to believe a Trojan squad who trudged past a middling MWC team can outperform a conference foe who blistered past one of the MWC’s superior teams.
Bryce Love should bounce back with a solid performance against the Trojans. But watch for defensive coordinators to start adjusting and pulling a few tricks out of the hat. Don’t be surprised to see QB stats dip downward over the next several weeks as defenses adapt to facing the new crop of rocket-armed quarterbacks. That goes for the Pac-12 – and Daniels.
I’m liking Stanford as the pick ATS or on the moneyline. J.T. Daniels will be like a young chess player losing to an older grandmaster despite possessing superior skills and memory. His time at the top of college football will come…but it’s not likely to come right away.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.