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Dr. Bob says: USC-Washington will be a dogfight

NCAA Football: Oregon at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Stoll of Dr. Bob Sports is one of the most seasoned, successful sports handicappers around. He was one of the first to use advanced analytics in sports handicapping after studying statistics and finance at U.C. Berkeley. You can find his historical college football performance here, and you can subscribe to his service here.

His Strong Opinions have a success rate of about 53.7% since 1999. You can find a Strong Opinion for free below. He has agreed to share some of his lengthy, from-every-angle game previews here.


Strong Opinion – Usc (+8 ½) 27 WASHINGTON 30

USC started the season 1-3 straight up but the switch at quarterback from overly conservative Max Browne (only 8.7 yards per completion) to freshman stud Sam Darnold has ignited the Trojans’ offense and I’ve been on them 4 times in the last 5 weeks (2 Best Bets and 2 Strong Opinions all won).

Washington is a very, very good team that is certainly deserving of their lofty ranking but USC is just as talented and I still see value with the Trojans.

USC has one of the nation’s best offensive teams with Darnold at the controls, as the Trojans have run (264 yards at 6.9 yprp) and passed (291 yards at 8.7 yppp) their way to an average of 555 yards at 7.7 yards per play in Darnold’s 6 starts (against teams that would allow 5.9 yppl to an average attack) while averaging 7.2 yppl or more in all 6 games.

It’s highly unlikely that USC will average over 7 yards a play in this game against a dominating Washington defense that I rate at 1.6 yards per play better than average (based only on the stats before taking their starters out).

Washington is not impenetrable, however, as the Huskies have allowed an average of 25 points to the 4 good offensive teams that they’ve faced (Arizona, Oregon, Utah, and Cal) – none of which is close to as good as USC’s offense. USC’s offense is actually a bit better than Washington’s defense and the math model projects 387 yards at 5.5 yppl for the Trojans in this game.

Washington is as well rounded as any team in the nation, as the Huskies’ offense is also an elite unit that has averaged 48 points per game and 7.8 yards per play (against teams that would allow 6.2 yppl to an average team). USC has a good defense that’s yielded just 5.3 yppl to a schedule of opposing offensives that would average 6.1 yppl against an average team, but my model projects a healthy 401 yards at 6.4 yppl for the Huskies in this game.

NCAA Football: Washington at Utah
Myles Gaskin
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

While Washington has a clear yards per play advantage they are projected to outgain the Trojans by only 14 total yards because USC is likely to have more plays from scrimmage (because Washington tends to hit on a lot of big plays while USC puts together more drives). The big plays tend to lead to a higher scoring efficiency for Washington (i.e. more points per yard) but USC has a decisive edge in special teams that should equate to better field position, which could make the difference in a competitive game.

Overall the math favors Washington by just 1 ½ points in this game but unfortunately the Huskies apply to a very good 70-13 ATS home momentum situation that will keep me from making the Trojans a Best Bet. USC is a math model play and the math tends to perform better than situational analysis, so I will still consider USC a Strong Opinion at +7 ½ points or more (and as a 1-Star Best Bet at +10 or more).