UCLA Bruins (5-5 SU, 3-7 ATS) vs. USC Trojans (9-2 SU, 3-7-1 ATS)
College Football Week 12
Date/Time: Saturday, November 18, 2017 at 8PM EST
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UCLA +16/USC -16
Over/Under Total: 71
In the Crosstown Rivalry, the UCLA Bruins take on the USC Trojans at the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday. This Pac-12 battle features a Southern Cal team that has looked good with three straight wins to right the ship after a rough patch and a Bruins team that was able to enter this game in winning fashion. On Saturday, the Bruins came from behind to beat Arizona State, 44-37. Southern Cal scored a 38-24 road-win over Colorado on Saturday. This is an annual late-season battle that has been dominated by USC in recent seasons. In last years Battle of LA, the Trojans emerged victorious, 36-14. UCLA is a little better than last season, while the Trojans have never really been able to reach the heights they were at late last year.
Coming off a 4-win season, the 5-5 Bruins have made some progress in 2017. They were able to overcome a deficit and ride the big arm of Josh Rosen to beat a dangerous Arizona State team on Saturday. They have also beaten Oregon and Colorado this season, showing more mettle than last season in conference-play. On Saturday, they showcased the offensive firepower at their disposal. This season, their defense has been so bad that its actually a credit to this team that they might actually get a bowl game out of this season. Against ASU, the D was actually able to show a rare flash of resolve, tightening up late to help UCLA score the big win. It looks like they are warming up to being at home, after absorbing a couple bad beatings on the road in recent weeks.
The UCLA offense was in good form on Saturday. They were able to spring loose a run game that has been on sabbatical for long stretches this season. They put together nearly 200 yards on the ground with Bolo Olorunfunmi getting untracked and also adding in the aerial department. With top receiver Darren Andrews lost for the season, they need all the help they can get and Jordan Lasley was big on Saturday with 162 receiving yards and a touchdown. With 381 yards through the air in the big win, Rosen can be quite prolific through the air. If he is this Saturday, they could be tough on a Trojans team that hasnt been very bankable, with only three covers on the season.
The issue gets a little more-sticky when discussing the UCLA defense. To their credit, they managed to tighten up against a dangerous Arizona State offense on Saturday, but they are exploitable in a big way and a Trojans offense that is peaking could take advantage. No team has given up more yardage against the run than the Bruins defense has this season. The secondary is stout and makes a lot of plays and while that might be a result of teams being able to run the ball with such aplomb, they arent all that bad. This is still a group that yields almost 40 points a game. Up-front, they are simply not up to conference standards and with the run-game of the Trojans kicking into gear, that looks to be a major problem area to ponder for potential UCLA backers.
The Trojans now have a chance to close the season strongly and atone for failing to meet the lofty standards set for them in the preseason. After a 6-0 start, they came up short to Washington State, losing a few weeks later badly to Notre Dame. But in the last three weeks, they have managed to look pretty good. Injuries were a big part of the letdown, with a ton of key role guys going down throughout the season. But in the last few weeks, weve seen the offense kick it into the highest gear they have found all season. At the end of the day, they might not have made the national splash some thought they would, but theyre still the only one-loss team in the Pac-12 and a dangerous team that is blooming late.
The Trojans had a tricky road spot on Saturday against the Buffaloes and they performed well. Sam Darnold threw for 329 yards with two touchdowns and didnt throw any interceptions, which he has had a tendency to do this season. Aerially, Tyler Vaughns, Deontay Burnett, and Steven Mitchell, Jr. were big against Colorado. The real star of their offense in recent weeks has been running back Ronald Jones, II. He has been running absolutely wild against conference foes and the prospects of him not having a huge game against the Bruins defense on Saturday are dim indeed. They also have juice in the run-game with AcaCedrick Ware and, if hes available, Stephen Carr.
The Southern Cal defense has really had to soldier on through a litany of injuries. They got Christian Rector back and he returned to the business of getting after quarterbacks on Saturday. Ucheema Nwosu and Rasheem Green have also been big in applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks. This defense has been adept at getting turnovers. They have had some moments when they werent so good late in games, while also having made some big plays in clutch situations this season. There are no easy answers for this defense, which has been a mixed bag in 2017. They should match up decently with Rosen, with a stocked secondary that makes plays.
It doesnt always work out this way, but in these long-running annual rivalry-games, you can sometimes throw the records out. USC has their division locked up and UCLA is fighting for a bowl spot and would love to add the type of legitimacy a win like this would give a program that hasnt had much to celebrate the last few seasons. There are still certain matchup elements that dont go away, regardless of urgency and motivation. I dont doubt that the Bruins can make headway offensively and hang in there vaguely at points. Its just hard to see the USC offense and especially the run-game being contained on any kind of meaningful level. In the end, I see Southern Cal pulling away for the easy win and the cover.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the USC Trojans minus 16 points. Bet this game for FREE by taking advantage of a FAT 100% bonus up to $1000 at MyBookie! (Use Promo Code: PRDCT14)