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Preseason college football lines: USC vs. Alabama

In the first installment of “How is Clay Helton Still Employed” 2020, the Trojans and the Crimson Tide meet in Jerry World for what should be a fun one.

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones warms up prior to the first half of the Citrus Bowl between the Michigan Wolverines and the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 01, 2020, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re writing this 170 days before the game is scheduled to take place, and USC traditionally embraces drama like a team from Hollywood should. So who knows who will be actually coaching the Trojans when USC faces Alabama in Arlington at AT&T Stadium on September 5th. Clay Helton lives in a state of perpetual hot-seatedness, they’ve got a new AD in Mike Bohn that didn’t hire him, and this recruiting class probably didn’t make that any easier. Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

USC Trojans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

When and where

September 5th
Time TBD
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas


Alabama -16.5

Money Line

USC +525
Alabama -835

Why the line is what it is

One team hasn’t made come close to the Pac-12 championship game the last two seasons, and the other team is Alabama.

It’s probably never been more challenging for the Crimson Tide in the Nick Saban era: LSU is still in the division (though for sure weakened by graduations and NFL early entries), the rise of Georgia’s recruiting classes improving, and heck they even lost a strength coach to the Kirby Smart and the ‘Dawgs. But it’s still ‘Bama, who have lost 12 games in the 2010’s total.

Mac Jones is the likely starting quarterback, they might have the best stable of backfield talent in America led by Najee Harris with guys like Brian Robinson and Trey Sanders behind, and wide receiver DeVonta Smith decided to stay one more year in Tuscaloosa instead of heading to the NFL. And there have more five-stars players on defense than there are five-star hotels in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile USC has been an abject disaster in recruiting, and will enter 2020 with the traditional Trojan sword being swung by Damocles. A quarterback battle between former-starter-before-injury JT Daniels and revelation Kedon Slovis will have to play out during fall camp, as Daniels would have still been recovering during spring practice anyway before cancellation. We hope Clay Helton is cutting Slovis in on his paychecks because he’s the only reason they’re still being cashed; 3,502 yards, 30 TD’s while setting a freshman NCAA record via a 71.9% completion rate was one of the great stories in college football last year.

But they still can’t recruit! Having the third-best class in the Pac-12 last year was bad, but having the tenth-ranked in 2020 is an abomination. It’s USC vs. the Pac-12, and this isn’t softball. They should be in first place every year.

Why it might change

The Trojans were 60th on defense by S&P last year. That’s just nowhere good enough to compete with the elite of college football, and kind of a pock on the program. If USC can get in the portal and bring some talent in over this summer now that it appears Helton is getting at least one more season.

Where the value is now

This number seems pretty good from here, but if anything it’s a lean towards Alabama because the Tide should l be able to run the ball on ‘SC. And where the Trojans lack talent defensively, ‘Bama has had a top-two class nationally four of the last five years. The Tuscaloosa Death Star might have made a wrong turn the last two years, but it isn’t going anywhere.

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