ALSO SEE: Labor Weekend Preview, Part 1
The computer's projection of a Final Four that features USC, Indiana, Miami and LSU will be severely tested this weekend.
The Trojans are expected to be the least-challenged on that list when defending Mountain West champ San Jose State comes calling on Saturday. USC is a 13.5-point favorite in the sportsbooks, and a whopping 28.91-point favorite by the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com.
One thing the Spartans have on their side is game experience as they opened last week with a 45-14 thumping of FCS member Southern Utah. These teams have met four times previously and USC has taken all four. The last meeting occurred in 2009 with the Trojans prevailing 56-3. Every game as been hosted by USC. Southern Cal hasn't lost a home opener since 2013 (Washington State) and San Jose State has lost 24 straight to Power 5 schools since the 2006 squad's final record of 9-4 included a 35-34 win over a woeful Stanford team that finished 1-11. This game is included in our Feature Picks. in the Easy Pickins category.
We preview the Alabama-Miami in a another article (Click Here), but we reiterate here that the computer has the 'Canes favored by 1.30-points in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic on Saturday afternoon. The oddsmakers have the Tide rolling by 17.5 in a game that is also included in our Feature Picks as one one of 8 computer opposite picks.
Indiana is projected to go undefeated and win the Big Ten title. That's a tall ask when you consider Indiana's only titles came in 1945 and 1967 and the latter was a 3-way tie with Purdue (the year after Bob Griese left) and Minnesota. The Hoosiers are one of ten Big Ten teams to open with a conference game this week as they hit the road to face a dangerous Iowa squad on Saturday that's forecast to wind up just a game behind Wisconsin on the Big Ten west race. Indiana is actually opened as a 5.5-point underdog in the sportsbooks, but that spread was as low as 3 points (William Hill) on Wednesday. The computer takes Indiana by just 1.66 points. Iowa has won the last three meetings. This game is included in our Feature Picks as a computer upset pick.
LSU took a step back last year after winning the 2019 national championship. In 2020, the Tigers had to win at Florida and then outscore Ole Miss at home just to finish 5-5. Now, the computer says Ed Orgeron's Bayou Bengals are set to return to the top of the heap in a heated 3-way battle with Alabama and Texas A&M. LSU welcomes back 18 starters but UCLA brings back 20. Chip Kelley has 89% of letterwinners back on the squad in what could be a make-or-break season for his continued employment in Westwood. The computer has the Bruins going 7-5, 5-4 in the conference for a 3rd-place tie with Arizona State (behind USC and Utah). It's the first-ever meeting between these two programs. LSU's opening spread of 4-1/2 had shrunk to as low as 2-1/2 (FanDuel) on Wednesday. The computer has LSU by just 1.41.
The college football Labor Day weekend begins tonight at 7:30 ET with a FBS-FCS matchup of UAB facing Jacksonville State in a neutral site game at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery.