The Alabama Crimson Tide will look to both, back up their standing as the No. 1 team in the country – and cover the college football betting lines – when they ‘host’ the playoff hopeful USC Trojans in an intriguing Week 1 affair that I believe is offering a ton of value.
Now, let’s find out which team you should back when this matchup gets underway live from AT&T Stadium in almost three weeks.
A Closer Look At The Week 1 Trojans Vs Crimson Tide Expert Predictions
When: Saturday, September 3, 2016 at 8:00 PM ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Live Stream: ABC Live Stream
NCAAF Odds: Alabama -9.5
Bet The USC Trojans at +9.5 Because…
They’ve got as much talent as any team in the country – including Alabama. USC Trojans (8-5 SU, 6-7 ATS) fell far short of their expectations in 2015 and will have to break in a new starting quarterback in 2016 as they replace three-year starter Cody Kessler. In 2016, head coach Clay Helton will turn to junior signal-caller Max Browne in order to reach brand new heights this coming season, but there’s good news in the fact that the Trojans have all 10 of their other starters back.
Browne will make his first career start four years after being named the National High School Player of the Year but he’ll be helped by USC’s stellar collection of skill position players, including senior running back Justin Davis (902 yards, 5.3 average) and sophomore Ronald Jones (987 yards, 6.5 average).
Browne will throw early and often to All-America candidate wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (89 receptions for 1,454 yards and 10 TDs) while being protected by an offensive line that returns every starter including All-Pac-12 tackle Zach Banner. On defense, the Trojans ranked respectable 50th in points allowed (25.7 ppg) and have six returning starters but must replace their entire defensive line, so clearly, they could have issues stopping the run and getting to the quarterback early on if not all season.
USC does have a blossoming star in linebacker Cameron Smith, the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, not to mention a secondary that looks solid with future NFL performer Adoree Jackson and sophomore Iman Marshall forming what could be one of the best cornerback tandems in the country.
Bet The Alabama Crimson Tide at -9.5 Because…
The Tide have a perennially powerful defense and head coach Nick Saban knows how to win without an elite quarterback. Even with Saban having to find a replacement for Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry and starting quarterback Jake Coker, Alabama will likely be a defensive juggernaut in 2016, just as they have been for the entirety of Saban’s tenure at the legendary school.
Sure, this year marks the first time in Saban’s 10 seasons in Tuscaloosa, he’ll have neither his first or second-leading rusher back, but former top recruit Bo Scarbrough is now being labeled as the next star running back at Alabama. The quarterback position could be problematic for the Tide as they figure out their best option between Cooper Bateman, third-year sophomore David Cornwell and young candidates Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts.
The Tide will also lose some of the jaw-dropping depth along their front seven from a year ago, but Alabama does have plenty of talent with Reuben Foster taking over at middle linebacker and athletically gifted defensive ends Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson ready to shine.
Expert Pick & Final Score Prediction
While I like Alabama to get the win at home in their regular season opener, I’m going with USC to cover the spread in a closer-than-expected affair. Alabama went 5-2 ATS over their final even games last season but have also compiled an uninspiring 4-6 ATS mark at home in 2015 while going 7-7 ATS as a favorite.
While USC closed out its 2015 campaign by going 1-4 ATS over their final five games and a unimpressive 2-4 ATS on the road, the Trojans also ranked an impressive 37th in scoring (33.9 pg) and should have enough offense to keep the final score somewhere in the neighborhood of seven points at most. With Alabama breaking in a new quarterback and running back, the time to strike is now for USC. The Trojans cover in a losing effort.