UCLA Bruins (8-4 SU, 5-5-1 ATS) vs. USC Trojans (7-4 SU, 5-6 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date/Time: Saturday, November 28, 2016 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UCLA +3/USC -3
Over/Under Total: Off
In one of the oldest rivalries in college football and the biggest one on the west coast, the UCLA Bruins face the USC Trojans at the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday. The stakes are high, with the winner of this game taking down the Pac-12 South and facing Stanford in the conference title game. UCLA has won 4 out of 5 games, including a nice road win over the 13th-ranked Utah Utes on Saturday, 17-9. With the win, the Bruins are now 8-3 and have chance to add some real legitimacy to their 2015 season with a win here this week. USC, however, fell short on Saturday with a 48-28 loss at Oregon, easily the hottest team in the conference. The loss sent the Trojans to 7-4, but in the south division where parity is the name of the game, they still have a chance to play themselves into the conference title game.
Both teams have experienced their share of ups and downs this season. But that is the price of doing business in the Pac-12 in 2015. Its been a turbulent conference, where onlookers were forced to constantly redefine their view on teams. And naturally, both teams have fallen prey to the wackiness that is the Pac-12 this year. But no team has managed to rise above it, so how many bad things can you really say? When facing dangerous teams week in and week out in the Pac-12, bad things are going to happen and thats why no Pac-12 teams will be in the CFP. Its not that theyre not good enough, necessarily, but its just too hard to get through this conference without suffering a couple losses.
USC had a chance to notch a really big win on Saturday, but a lot of good teams would be coming up short to this Oregon team, who was coming off a win over Stanford. The margin of victory was a bit disconcerting as they head into this big game, but to use that loss to downplay their chances this week could be a mistake. UCLA surely carries more momentum into this game with the big win over Utah on Saturday. Last season, the Bruins topped the Trojans, 38-20.
UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen has gotten through his first season playing against the big boys and hes emerged the better for it. He was in a tough spot last week on the road against a stingy Utah defense and he struggled some. He made enough big plays, while relying on standout back Paul Perkins, who continues to boost this offense. Rosen can also depend on a tough defense that has been getting better and more clutch over the course of the season.
Rosen once again called on his top two receivers, Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte, on Saturday. This is an offense that can take flight. They average 33.5 points per game and there have been explosive stretches this season. They have done well to resurrect a season that was plagued early by terrible performances. There were games earlier this season where they didnt really show up. Weve been seeing a higher level of effort and pride over the second-half of the season, with their only setback being a home loss to Washington State.
Despite some injuries and deflating moments during the season, the UCLA defense has come out of it as a dependable unit. On Saturday, they gave up just three field goals to the Utes. They had a shutout win over Oregon State on the road a few weeks before that. Its not the most consistent or bankable unit, but theyve given up a respectable 23.7 points a game.
USC did lose on Saturday, albeit to a streaking Oregon bunch on the road. But they have still done well for a team that was having all kinds of issues. After all, they had to dismiss their coach. They were rated highly before losing 3 games in 4 weeks. So for them to win 4 games in a row in conference was a testament to their grit and character. They were the first team to beat highly-ranked Utah this season and have been playing well for the most part.
USC QB Cody Kessler has been playing well lately. The problem against Oregon was more related to defensive issues. Kessler continues hooking up consistently with top receiver Juju Smith Schuster, while the run game continues to thrive with Justin Davis and Ronald Jones, II. On Saturday, Smith ran for 141 yards, while Jones ran for a touchdown. The Southern Cal offense averages almost 36 points per game. On the right night, they can be fairly explosive.
A main problem for the Trojans is the defense, particularly against the opponents passing game. While injuries havent helped and theyve faced some tough offenses this season, they are very exploitable aerially and one doesnt have to have that wild of an imagination to envision the Bruins taking advantage of some of these holes on D. USCs defense could be their key for this game. If it delivers, they have a shot to win.
When one explores the different possibilities in this game, it becomes a tough one to pick. One shouldnt judge USC too harshly based on last weeks loss. This is a big rivalry game where what happened last week often has little to no bearing. I look for the Trojans to have a better game this week, but Im inclined to take the points on a more-balanced UCLA bunch.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the UCLA Bruins plus 3 points.
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