Can you believe week 4 is approaching already? We waited endlessly all year for football to begin and just like that the end of September is near. Week 4 in college football is shaping up to be another intense week and while some of our favorite teams' expectations have been exceeded, and some not so much, there's still several football teams that we really don't know that much about. We do our best as fans to predict what may or may not happen week in and week out but sometimes, we overthink the obvious. That was me last week, as I suffered another defeat and watched my college football predictions record fall to 1-2 as I boldly predicted Texas Tech to pull a rabbit from their hat and beat the NC State wolfpack in a top 25 upset. Needless to say, NC State controlled the game and at no point did Texas Tech look even remotely prepared to muster up an upset. The injuries were too much to overcome for the Red Raiders and the North Carolina State defense was equally as tough to bridle. In week 4 I'll be pivoting our attention to the Pac-12 where number 7 ranked USC will travel to take on unranked Oregon State in what I predict will be a sneaky good game.
(7) USC (3-0) @ Oregon State (3-0)
September 24, 2022 at 9;30 EST
The red-hot USC Trojans enter the week as a 6.5-point favorite on the road to take on an Oregon State football team that has been quite impressive themselves over the first three weeks. What history tells us about this matchup is one thing, but what the future has in store is another. Or is it? Let's start with USC. The Trojans have been lights out this year up to this point, tallying an overall 3-0 record while also going 3-0 against the spread and outscoring their opponents to the tune of 152-69 (Rice, Stanford, Fresno State), but recent history tells us that USC has been known to struggle when facing other Pac-12 teams. Over the past 6 matchups against teams from the north division for USC, the Trojans have compiled a 2-4 record against the spread. The Trojans are particularly interesting though, when squaring off against Oregon State in Oregon, as 5 of the last 6 games at Reser Stadium has hit the under. Nevertheless, they have won 4 of their last 5 games straight up against the Beavers. This is a new era of USC football though, right? I mean, what could a computer module know about the groundbreaking offseason USC had? A 6.5-point spread just seems light. This is Lincoln Riley's team now. Transfers Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison have quickly shown incredible flashes of chemistry. Williams has yet to throw an interception and has totaled 8 touchdown passes on the year so far, while Jordan Addison was on the other end of those touchdown passes 5 times with 18 catches. Surely, Oregon State doesn't have an answer for this. If you would have told me last year that USC would lead the nation in turnover margin, I would have called you crazy, but that's not just a testament to their emphasis on ball security though, it also says this defense is here to play takeaway.
Here is what we know about Oregon State; When at home, this team covers. In their last 7 home games, they're 7-0 against the spread and of their last 6 games overall against teams from the south division, they're 4-2. This Oregon State team just dropped 68 points on Montana State this past Saturday and while OSU doubters will sit there and say, "It's just Montana State", I'll be responding with, "yes, they won the way any good team should win." Oregon State quarterback Chance Nolan has been having an impressive year himself, throwing for 7 touchdowns to 2 interceptions on the season, while finding comfort in wide receiver Tre'Shaun Harrison as his reliable target. Deshaun Fenwick has been a reliable force in the ground game as well cashing in on 3 touchdowns for a whopping 5.4 yards per carry average. While neither team has really faced much of a challenge yet to this point, we must look at the one common denominator we have between these two teams thus far which is their in-game performances against Fresno State this season. USC won handedly in last weeks bout with a final score of 45-17 while Oregon State won by three just one week prior, 35-32. Jake Haener, Fresno State quarterback, went down with an injury against USC last week, and while Logan Fife stepped in and didn't create any heinous errors, he really struggled to get things going against the Trojans and I can only imagine if Fife was starting one week prior against Oregon State, we may see similar final scores. Fife finished the game 11-12 with 140 yards and no scores, but despite a good completion percentage, it didn't feel like any of the passes completed had any meaning behind them. Don't get me wrong, Fresno State was not beating USC regardless, but I feel points were certainly left on the field for Fresno State after the Haener injury.
College football and sports in general are funny this way though, aren't they? Some wins against certain teams may mean one thing but a different teams win against that same opponent can mean something completely dissimilar; It doesn't always tell the story. What we know is, Oregon State shows up at home and we know that there is always a little extra juice when playing PAC-12 opponents. In comparison, we know that USC struggles against PAC-12 opponents, often scraping by with a win nevertheless. Lincoln Riley is going to get his first really big test at USC, and that is to distance himself from opponents like Oregon State who have hung around a little bit longer than they should in years passed. My prediction for this game is as follows: While Oregon State is not of the talent level that USC is, Oregon State will make this a game as they do. As for USC? Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Oregon State covers and dare I say they pull the upset over USC. Smashing Oregon State ML for +207 is my bet for the week.
For college football and NFL discussion and information, join WagerWire live on Twitter spaces every Friday at 8PM EST and listen to Football 4play. Only the best college football and NFL discussions with tons of engagement!
Photo credit: original Lincoln Riley Picture (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times) via https://www.latimes.com/sports/usc/story/2022-09-09/usc-football-stanford-three-things-to-know-preview-pac-12?_amp=true
Stats collected from Oddshark.com