Having just returned from a weekend getaway to Las Vegas, where I pumped untold dollars into various 80s movie-themed slot machines, I may not be the world’s foremost authority on smart money.

But even I know a bad bet when I see one.

ESPN’s David Purdum reported on Tuesday that the hottest wager in college football in one of Sin City’s biggest sports books is on the USC Trojans to win it all. The Trojans, a hodgepodge of homegrown heroes, familiar faces and transfer talent.

This isn’t a surprise, of course. There’s a reason more action comes in on the Los Angeles Lakers than any other NBA team, no matter their talent level. I think Sasha Vujačić got some MVP bets once upon a time.

Ed Salmons, a veteran oddsmaker at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, told Purdum that the Trojans have “attracted more bets and more money to win the national title than any other team at the Las Vegas location for the SuperBook, which also operates out of Colorado and New Jersey.”

With Los Angeles just a short, bumpy flight from Las Vegas or anywhere from a 4-to-8 hour drive, the followers of the Men of Troy have left a part of their paycheck in Sin City, along with fingers crossed in hopes of uncrossing them for a future V for Victory.

The action has jumped USC’s title odds from 40-1 to 25-1, 6th-lowest in the country.

Here’s the thing about Las Vegas, though: Drive long enough on the 15 Freeway, and it’ll feel like you’ll never see civilization again. It can feel like a mirage itself, an oasis in the middle of a desert.

Not too unlike the USC football team, after all.

For all the hype around Lincoln Riley and USC’s transfer portal makeover – which included the arrival of sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams, Riley’s protégé at Oklahoma, and Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison from Pittsburgh – Trojan backers are forgetting that an electric offense wasn’t the team’s biggest problem last year. Just one of many.

A USC defense loaded with talent a year ago allowed opponents the 2nd-most points in the Pac-12, which is stunning, considering the number of recruiting stars in that locker room.

Much of that falls at the feet of Clay Helton, who was shown the door after a 42-28 loss to Stanford in Week 2. The Trojans went on to lose 7 of their last 10 games, finishing at 4-8, the team’s worst performance in three decades.

USC looked overmatched at times, and worse, undisciplined.

It’s hard to shake that off in a year, no matter the upgrade of talent. What about the chemistry upgrade? What about the buy-in upgrade?

When any new coach comes into town, particularly one introducing 20 new transfers, some feelings will be hurt. For as many players are lifted by a new arrival, just as many could end up feeling jilted or unseen.

And the best USC teams were always defined by the buy-in.

What made the Trojan teams of lore so glorious was that each and very Trojan split that glory. That’s easy when Pete Carroll is running up and down the sidelines like a young (or middle-aged, at least) Robert Redford. That’s easy when practices are more star-studded than red-carpet events. That’s easy when Snoop Dogg and Will Ferrell are chilling on a Tuesday.

It used to really mean something to be a Trojan, and that was evidenced on the field. It was the little things. Punt return average. Kickoff coverage. That’s where effort outweighs talent. That’s where buy-in comes in.

In 2016, Helton’s first full-time season at the helm and the last time USC won the Rose Bowl, the team led the Pac-12 in both of those categories, as well as sacks allowed and 3rd-down efficiency. Last year, the Trojans ranked last in the league in punt return average and kickoff coverage.

To be sure, the Trojans made use of the transfer portal better than maybe any other team in the country this year. Add to that an abbreviated recruiting class that nonetheless has some impact-makers, and it’s clear that USC has a talent upgrade. USC should have improved depth, which has a trickle-down effect onto special teams and situational football.

They’ll be better, of course.

Better is a far cry from the national title, though. USC faces frisky Fresno State early in the year and always-formidable Notre Dame at the end. In the middle is a Pac-12 schedule that offers only a few opportunities to lock down a high ranking but equally as many chances to stub their toes. That’s part of the reason the Trojans are leaving the conference for the Big Ten.

That decision was a no-brainer.

Betting on USC to win it all in Riley’s first season? Not so much.

But who are we kidding?

Las Vegas is not exactly the home of well-reasoned decisions.

I should know. I lost $200 in a Karate Kid slot machine.