By Ryan Mayer
The college football bowl season is upon us. With 40 games spread out over the next two weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline/Bookmaker.eu. Find all our picks here.
All lines listed are as of publishing date. As always lines may change in the lead up to games so be sure to check.
#9 USC vs. #5 Penn State
Spread: USC -6.5
Spread: The common refrain about this USC team is that they’re the team that no one wants to face right now. That’s probably true. Since starting 1-3, the Trojans have ripped off eight straight wins. Clay Helton has really turned things around after looking like he would be fired four games in. A big part of that resurgence has been the stellar play of freshman QB Sam Darnold. Since joining the starting line-up in Week 4 against Utah, Darnold has thrown for 2,497 yards and has a 24-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. USC has scored 20 or more points in every game that he’s started. The offense features Ronald Jones (1,027 yards 6.5 YPC 11 TDs) with Darnold in the backfield and the dangerous combination of Juju Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers on the outside (114 receptions 1,435 yards 12 TDs combined). Penn State’s defense has been solid, if unspectacular this season and the Trojans should be able to put up some points.
That all said, the Nittany Lions have been playing just as well as USC over the latter half of the season. They’ve run off nine straight wins since starting 2-2 and Trace McSorely has blossomed in his first year in the starting QB role. The Nittany Lions have a dangerous running back of their own in Saquon Barkley (1,306 yards 5.3 YPC 16 TDs) and DaeShan Hamilton and Chris Godwin have been a handful at receiver (just ask the Badgers). Statistically, these teams profile pretty similarly, and when that’s the case, a nearly touchdown spread is too much for me. The Trojans are playing well, but so is James Franklin’s group. Penn State +6.5
Total: Judging by the offensive playmakers on both sides in this game, you’d think I would be expecting a high-scoring affair. I don’t know that that will be the case, however. Sure the offenses will get their points, but in the end I think it’s a couple defensive stops, by both teams, that keeps this one under that total. Under 62
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.