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UCLA Bruins vs. USC Trojans Point Spread - Pick

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
TV: ABC

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: UCLA +16/USC -16
Over/Under Total: 71

The UCLA Bruins take on the USC Trojans at the LA Coliseum in the Battle of LA on Saturday. Southern Cal has won three in a row heading into this game, including a 38-24 win over Colorado in Boulder on Saturday. The win lifted them to 9-2 and they still lead the Pac-12's South division with a 7-1 conference record and will be in the conference title game. Still, in this crosstown rivalry, they will be looking to keep their momentum going against a UCLA team that is able to enter this matchup on a good note after beating Arizona State in their last game, 44-37. After falling behind 14-0, UCLA took control of the game and got the big win. In this matchup, UCLA has lost the last two matchups with USC, having won only four times since 1998. Last season, USC won, 36-14.

USC has had a weird season. Favored by many at the beginning of the season to go as far as the CFP, things never fully went the Trojans' way, even as they were winning games. Injuries, inconsistent play, and some bad breaks plagued the season. Losses to Washington State and Notre Dame seemed to confirm that the Trojans weren't the same squad that shined at the end of last season. The offense wasn't the free-flowing unit that marched up and down the field, with a defense battered by injuries and not able to provide the same support. But with 135 points total in their last 3 games and better play by the defense in spots, we see a USC team that is at least looking to finish strongly.

Against Colorado in a tricky road spot in Boulder, Sam Darnold was pretty good for the Trojans, with 329 yards through the air with a pair of touchdowns. He also threw no picks, as he has been turnover-heavy this season. Darnold also ran in a touchdown score. Some of the likely suspects had most of the aerial production, with Deontay Burnett, Steven Mitchell, Jr., and Tyler Vaughns having good days. On the ground, they have been getting a nice late-season boost from RB Ronald Jones, II. In the last three games, he has run for an immense 552 yards and 6 touchdowns. And Aca'Cedrick Ware and Stephen Carr can also spring forward with big games. This side of the ball might not ever reach the promise they established last season, but they are as close as they've been all year and that's dangerous for any team they face from here on out this season.

Again, injuries have been an issue for the Southern California defense. That's true for all teams, but this side of the ball has been hit with an inordinate amount of personnel setbacks. Largely as a result, they haven't been that great this season. They have been porous against the run and the pass, while not being that clutch at times late in games. Still, they have gotten 20 turnovers, with a lot of picks in the secondary by Jack Jones, Marvell Tell, and Ajene Harris, who had two picks on Saturday. They are one of the best pass-rushing teams in the country. Rasheem Green and Christian Rector really get after it and both had sacks on Saturday. Ucheema Nwosu has also been an impactful pass-rusher, as well as Josh Fatu up-front. In other words, they can be exploited, but can pull off a lot of plays to make up for it.

UCLA has made some strides this season, surpassing their win total of last season with their fifth win of the season on Saturday in the big victory over Arizona State. After falling behind early, Josh Rosen got this offense revved up, with a defense that has been awful this season tightening up enough late to get the Bruins home. With wins over Colorado and Oregon, this was the Bruins' third conference win. They had been in bad form in recent weeks, coming off lopsided defeats to Washington and Utah on the road. They looked better at home this past week and look for another strong showing in LA this weekend.

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Rosen was big on Saturday with 381 yards through the air, as he also ran in a score on the night. He has had some huge games this season, but mostly earlier in the campaign. To see him moving this offense aerially last week was a nice development heading into this game. WR Jordan Lasley was big with 162 yards and a TD through the air. RB Bolo Olorunfunmi was big with 79 yards rushing and 79 yards receiving. A ground-game that has struggled most of the season put up close to 200 yards with three touchdowns on Saturday. While USC has had their own issues on defense, they are still better than the Arizona State "D," which is fairly exploitable. It should be harder this week for the Bruins. But all in all, it was a nice showing by the UCLA offense on Saturday.

When you look at the UCLA defense, hats goes off to the whole team for getting as far as they have with the leakiness on this side of the ball. They are dead-last against the run this season and the 291 yards they gave up on Saturday to ASU backs is actually below the average of what they allow. They do have some spirit, especially in the back. It's been the only source of optimism on this side of the ball this season and it materialized again last week, with Nate Meadors returning an interception for a touchdown. With Jaleel Wadood, Adarius Pickett, Darnay Holmes, and others, they've been really good. It makes you wonder where they'd be if not making up for the jarring inadequacies of the front seven. This "D" has given up an average of nearly 40 points a game this season.

This isn't just any old game. Often times, these teams will enter this late-season matchup in divergent spots, with the underdog usually a little better than what would be suspected. For USC, it's another game on certain levels with the division already locked up. For the Bruins, it's a chance to solidify their bowl standing and add credence to what has been a difficult season by scoring a highly-visible upset over their crosstown rivals. With USC clicking as they well as they have on offense, especially with the run-game, it's just hard to envision the Bruins hanging in there. I'm taking Southern Cal.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the USC Trojans minus 16 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet on the Crosstown Rivalry by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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