It’s hard to imagine a scenario under which USC gets off the mat after suffering a shocking 38-34 loss to Arizona State last week courtesy of a 46-yard Hail Mary completion as time expired. Even more stunning is the fact that the Trojans allowed three touchdowns in the final 3:53 of the fourth quarter. “You learn the hard way in games like this,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “I feel bad for our kids, I thought they fought hard, competed well and gave amazing effort. But we didn’t get it done in the end.”
Meanwhile, Arizona is 5-0 for the first time since 1998 after upsetting Oregon 31-24 last week. From a technical standpoint, 5-0 or better home underdogs are a profitable 31-19-3 ATS since3 1980, including 19-7-2 ATS when getting less than four points. The Wildcats are also 12-3-1 ATS as home underdogs, including 10-2 ATS when playing with conference revenge. In contrast, USC is a money-burning 1-4 ATS on the road following consecutive home games, 1-4 ATS as conference road favorites of less than seven points and 2-7 ATS in the last nine meetings with the Wildcats.
For an undefeated team at this juncture of the season, the Wildcats are flying under-the-radar in the Pac-12 despite having one of the most incompetent head coaches in college football. Arizona is averaging 39.8 points per game at 5.2 yards per rush play, 8.4 yards per pass play and 6.7 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow just 4.5 yards per rush attempt, 7.5 yards per pass attempt and 6.0 yards per play to a mediocre offensive attack. Overall, the Wildcats are 0.7 yards per rush play, 0.9 yards per pass play and 0.7 yards per play better than average offensively in 2014.
The Trojans take the field with a defense that is 0.2 yards per rush attempt, 0.2 yards per pass attempt and 0.1 yards per play better than average, which is not good enough to slow down a potent Arizona attack. Indeed, the Wildcats possess a significant 0.5 yards per rush play, 0.7 yards per pass play and 0.6 yards per play advantage over USC’s stop unit. Even better news for Arizona investors is the fact that the Wildcats are 3-0 at home this season where they are averaging 47.3 points per game at 5.8 yards per rush play, 8.4 yards per pass play and 7.3 yards per play.
USC maintains a nominal edge when it has the ball as the Trojans are 0.3 yards per play better than average offensively (5.6 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.3 yards per play), while the Wildcats are 0.1 yards per play better than average (5.9 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 6.0 yards per play). USC’s offense will become one-dimensional against an Arizona front seven that does an excellent job stopping the run (3.5 yards per rush play vs. teams that would combine to average 4.1 yards per rush play). Overall, the Wildcats have a huge 1.0 yards per rush play advantage defensively over USC’s ground attack.
I have also liked what I’ve heard coming from Arizona’s locker room following its upset over Oregon. “Nothing will change in our preparation,” said safety Will Parks. “We’re going to stay humble, stay ready and stay focused for whatever challenge comes our way. Our minds are going to stay the same and we’re going to go out there with everything we have, just like any other weekend.” Coach Rodriguez has also been pleased with how his team has handled success. “I was impressed with our players’ attitudes going into the game and afterward,” Rodriguez said. “We celebrated in the locker room a little bit and then got on the plane. Maybe because it was so late, five minutes after takeoff it was silent. Our guys have the ability to focus quickly. I think they know how important this game is as well.”
My math model actually favors Arizona by two points and the Wildcats apply to a very good 59-13-1 ATS home momentum situation of mine that is predicated upon their upset win at Oregon last week. Grab the generous points in this Pac-12 affair and invest with confidence.