USC vs. Stanford: Betting odds, picks, lines and predictions

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams (13) runs the ball.
USC quarterback Caleb Williams runs during during a blowout win over Rice at the Coliseum on Sept. 3. The Trojans play Stanford in their first Pac-12 game of the season Saturday. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

USC visits Stanford on Saturday afternoon in the Pac-12 opener for both teams as 8½-point road favorites (at most Las Vegas sportsbooks).

Both teams enter the matchup after coasting in nonconference games against weaker competition.

The Trojans didn’t just steam Rice, they blanched it in a 66-14 rout as they scored every time they had the ball through the first three quarters. And when they didn’t have the ball, the defense took it away and had not one, not two, but three pick sixes. Coach Lincoln Riley’s debut was a resounding success and Caleb Williams — the quarterback he brought with him from Oklahoma — was an efficient 19 for 22 for 249 yards and two touchdowns to junior wide receiver Jordan Addison. Williams probably could have padded his stats even more like other star quarterbacks if the defense hadn’t taken so many interceptions to the house, though they thrilled the 60,000 fans at the Coliseum.

But it’s not going to be so easy this week.

Stanford is coming off a 41-10 rout of Colgate, led by quarterback Tanner McKee, who was 22 for 27 for 308 yards and two touchdowns. The Cardinal is coming off a disappointing 3-9 season, but remember that it beat USC 42-28, so even with the Riley-Williams upgrade, we don’t think there’s that much difference between the two teams to warrant the Trojans being favored by more than a touchdown on the road.

On Sunday, the Circa sportsbook in downtown Las Vegas opened USC -12 and early sharp bettors also thought that was too high and pounded it down to 10½ within nine minutes and then to single digits in the next few hours. Most other books opened USC at -9 or -9½ and the money has continued to come in on Stanford. USC might win the game, but the smart money says to bet Stanford to stay within the spread.

Pick: Stanford +8

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.