College Football Betting: Fresno State at USC

All line moves are not created equal. One of the most important skills that a serious sports bettor can develop is the ability to ‘read the board’ and interpret what line movement means. Nowhere is this more true than with NCAA football pointspreads and particularly early in the season. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to determine if you should follow a line move, fade the move or just ignore it. It’s an essential skill but one that can only be developed through experience at college football betting. Not only is it crucial in determining which teams to bet but an important component in the highly underrated discipline of timing your bet for greatest effectiveness.

LINE: USC -13.5

These in-state rivals haven’t played since 2014 and much has changed for both programs since then. The Bulldogs would finish 6-8 in 2014 and enter a ‘downward spiral’ from there. Frenso State went 3-9 in 2015 and 1-11 in 2016. Enter current head coach Jeff Tedford who presided over one of the more amazing turnarounds in recent college football history. Fresno State went 10-4 in 2017 and 12-2 last year. The Bulldogs have become a downright nasty defensive team under Tedford. Last season, they finished #3 in total defense and #3 in scoring defense allowing just 14.1 PPG. The starting defensive line returns intact though the rest of the unit lost talent. The offense took a big hit losing QB Marcus McMaryion and returns only one starter on the line. They also lost offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer who now serves in the same role at Indiana.

Despite the heavy loss of talent the future looks bright for the Fresno State Bulldogs. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at USC where things look cloudy at best. USC is coming off of their first losing season since 2000 but unlike Todd Hackett who took the fall that year Clay Helton was brought back for his fourth season. Unfortunately for him, the performance of his football team isn’t his only concern. USC has a new president named Carol Folt who has been charged with rebuilding the scandal tarnished public image for the university. Helton wasn’t implicated in the ‘college admissions’ scandal but the expectation is that heads will roll including Athletic Director Lynn Swann. Helton could get caught up in that crossfire and even if he doesn’t he’s got no margin for error this season.

Helton is making changes in how the football program is run which primarily consists of being more of a strict disciplinarian with players. The biggest change, however, is the Trojans’ transition to a pass oriented offense. The original choice for offensive coordinator was Kliff Kingsbury who was on the job a month before heading off to the NFL taking the Arizona Cardinals gig. USC then turned to another ‘Air Raid’ proponent Graham Harrell who previously was the offensive coordinator at North Texas. His biggest issue could be finding a quarterback that is a good fit for his schemes. Sophomore JT Daniels won a four way competition for the starting job but he didn’t exactly set the world on fire last season. Transitioning to a new system won’t make things any easier for him this year and facing a nasty Fresno defense is a horrible matchup for his opening game.

For some reason, however, USC has taken money since the game opened moving the college football pointspread from -10 to -13.5. Hard to justify the move which might have been based on the public’s tendency to favor higher profile teams over lower profile ones. Helton has been a horrible pointspread coach and enters on a 8-19 ATS run including a 3-9 ATS run as a home favorite and a 7-13 ATS run as a favorite in all settings. They’re also on a miserable 1-6 ATS run in non-conference play. Fresno, meanwhile, has been an absolute pointspread wrecking crew under Tedford going 20-6-2 ATS, 7-0 ATS as a dog and 12-2-2 ATS on the road. They’re also 7-3 SU/8-2 ATS in non-conference games under Tedford.

Can’t imagine this game moving to -14 as there are enough ‘sharps’ on Fresno to balance out any public money on the Trojans. We’ll gladly take the vastly superior defense getting almost two touchdowns.


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