USC Trojans (7-3 SU, 6-4 ATS) vs. UCLA Bruins (8-2 SU, 3-7 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date and Time: Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 8:00PM EST
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: USC +3/UCLA -3
Over/Under Total: Off
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In another installment of one of the bigger rivalries in college football, the USC Trojans come to play the UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl on Saturday. USC holds a 44-30-7 edge over UCLA in this rivalry, but it is the Bruins who are 3-point favorites over the Trojans in this game. UCLA was off last Saturday, but has won 4 straight and in their last game, defeated Washington 44-30. The Trojans played last Thursday, beating Cal, 38-30 for their 4th win in five games.
The Bruins won their first 4 games, lost two in a row, and have now strung together 4 straight wins. They lost a pair of home games to Utah and Oregon. But they have beaten some pretty good teams, including Memphis, Texas, Arizona State, Arizona, and Washington. They are still in the running to win what might be the toughest division in college football–the Pac-12 South.
A win here would also put the Trojans that much closer to winning the division. They have lost 3 games– a shocker against Boston College, a home game against Arizona State, and on the road to Utah in late-October. With UCLA and Notre Dame remaining on the schedule, there is still damage to be done. With wins over Stanford and Arizona, they have shown they can thrive this season in a very tough conference.
The Trojans left something to be desired in last Thursdays win over Cal. Those who laid 14 points had to feeling good as USC stormed out to a 31-2 second quarter lead. But the Trojans offense took the balance of the evening off, with Cal storming back to make it 38-30. QB Cody Kessler did throw for 371, with WR Nelson Angholor bringing in 16 catches for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns. But in the second half, the Trojans defense was leaky against both the pass and run.
UCLA was looking pretty ragged after losing to Utah and Oregon. Those games were followed by a narrow 2-point win over Cal and a double overtime win over Colorado, a team that is winless in conference. So a 10-point win over a 12th-ranked Arizona team and a nice road win over Washington were needed games for the Bruins to get under their belt. After a break, look for them to attack the remainder of the season with extra zeal.
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Brett Hundley has taken his lumps in a tough season, marked by injuries and some on-field letdowns. Still, here he sits after 10 games with a completion percentage of 72.1%, with 17 touchdown passes with just 4 interceptions. He has also run for 564 yards and 7 touchdowns. RB Paul Perkins has been a consistent force, with 1169 yards at over 6 yards per run. Jordan Payton is the featured ball-catcher, with depth offered by Thomas Duarte, Eldridge Massington, Devin Fuller, and Devin Lucien. Offensively, the Bruins have averaged 35 points per game.
The Bruins are very balanced on offense, ranked 30th in both rushing and passing. Defensively, the prognosis is not as favorable, with a so-so run-defense and a pass-defense that has often been exploited by some of the better offenses in the conference. They only gave up a combined 34 points to Arizona and Arizona State, but have given up 35 to Memphis, 30 to Utah, 42 to Oregon, 34 to Cal, 37 to Colorado, and 30 to Washington. We see UCLA allowing pretty big point totals to most of their conference opponents and even some teams that are a full level or two beneath USC.
USC has some things in common with UCLA tendency-wise. They have also been porous at times against the pass, while having a powerful aerial attack of their own. USC has been pretty robust against the run, ranked 31st in the nation. Their passing game is a top-20 group and Agholor is a real monster at wide receiver. Cody Kessler is nearing 3000 yards. Running back Javorius Allen is at 1184 yards. And there is a cast of speedy playmakers that can get a lot of business done.
It almost doesnt matter what leads up to this game. Even when one team is significantly better, its usually a tough game. Its a game both teams get up for and each team had some extra time to focus on this Saturday. Its technically a road game for USC, but their home venue is actually closer to UCLA. Any way you cut it, it should be a good game and a tight contest between two teams that arent all that different.
UCLA has a few more NFL-caliber playmakers on both sides of the ball. This has the looks of a game that could come down to a few plays. The Bruins enter this game with a head of steam. They just a look a little better lately, a little crisper. They are a little better-balanced and seemed poised for a big relaunch for the next few weeks and maybe even a conference title game. I look for them to get the win and the cover in what should be a very difficult game.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the UCLA Bruins minus 3 points.