USC Trojans (7-3 SU, 6-4 ATS) vs. UCLA Bruins (4-6 SU, 4-6 ATS)
College Football Week 12
Date/Time: Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 10:30PM EST
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: USC -10.5/UCLA +10.5
Over/Under Total: 52
In the annual LA cross-town matchup, the USC Trojans come into the Rose Bowl to take on the UCLA Bruins. For UCLA, this is a chance to produce something positive out of a season that has gone south for the most part. Last Saturday, they broke a 4-game slide with a 38-24 win over Oregon State. And bowl eligibility is still in play with a strong close to the regular season. It certainly won't be easy against a Trojans team that is on a massive roll, including a 26-13 win over highly-rated Washington on Saturday. If not for a 1-3 start, the Trojans would be in line for some huge things. They still are and after 6 straight wins, there aren't many teams in the nation playing better than Southern Cal is right now.
The problems for UCLA are almost too numerous to name. If trying to summarize it, they were left with a lot of personnel issues to start the season—problems that most overlooked. The one main source of promise was the sophomore season of blue-chipper Josh Rosen. But with a lot of his key pieces gone, he struggled and then got hurt and was lost for the season. In his place is Mike Fafaul, whose play has been uneven at best. At the end of the day, the Bruins can barely run the ball to save their lives, as they're ranked 127th out of 128 teams. The one-dimensional nature of their offense, the injuries, the inability of youth to fill in key losses, and an average defense that is not clutch has been too much to overcome.
A win over Oregon State on Saturday was a good moment for the Bruins, but Oregon State is really in the dumps this season. On Saturday, they were at least able to run the ball a little. One shouldn't look for a ton of that to materialize this week, as the USC defense has been very adroit at stopping the run, as they did with the heavy-duty Washington ground-game in Saturday's big win. Fafaul can accumulate yards on offense, but he's been throwing a lot of interceptions and is a big drop-off, even from an off-tune Rosen.
To their credit and despite an offense stringing them out time and again, the UCLA defense has somewhat been able to keep it together. In seven Pac-12 games this season, only Utah was able to really take it to them. All other conference opponents have been held to 27 or fewer points. We'll see if they can do that against a USC offense that has really ascended in the past few months. And it's also worth noting that in this particular matchup, it sometimes helps to throw the records and numbers out to some extent. Time and again over the years, we've seen this rivalry take on a life of its own where the things we normally rely on to handicap games don't work as well in this context.
Still, it's hard to not notice how good Southern Cal looks headed into the stretch run of the regular season. Things looked ragged in a 1-3 start to the season. Then Sam Darnold, a redshirt freshman, took over for Max Browne and the entire team started looking better. The offense took off with Darnold able to get the ball into the hands of his numerous playmakers. And the defense responded in kind. What we see now is a team that might be one of the best ones in the country, a far cry from where they began the season as cannon fodder for teams like Alabama, Stanford, and Utah.
Darnold is at 2161 yards passing with 22 touchdowns. Against Washington, he threw a couple picks, but was otherwise on-point in commandeering this offense. He moves nicely, has a good arm, and carries with him a winning vibe that rubs off on everyone. It took some time to click, but Ronald Jones and Justin Davis have risen to the occasion in the run game. Each has been able to step forth with big performances in recent weeks. Add in legitimate pass-catching talent like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers, and Deontay Burnett, and we're seeing the kind of offense that USC optimists imagined this season.
QUIT THROWING AWAY YOUR HARD EARNED LOOT! BET ON THE USC VS. UCLA GAME AT DISCOUNTED ODDS -105 TODAY AT 5DIMES
The offensive proliferation with the Trojans has given way to the defense being able to not only find its footing, but thrive in recent weeks. Watching them knot-up the powerful and balanced Washington offense was really something to see. Adoree Jackson, the versatile Mr. Everything for the Trojans, picked off two Jake Browning passes, while the front stuffed up a huskies run-game that had been in full-flight leading up the that game. The week before, the Southern Cal defense made mincemeat of an Oregon team that had been running the heck out of the ball. They enter this game as a team that is peaking on both sides of the ball and that's bad news for a UCLA team that looks totally out of its element heading into this game.
It was nice for the Bruins to get the win just to rediscover what it feels like against Oregon State. At the same time, other than the vague notion that teams elevate their form in key rivalry games, the Bruins look to really be up against it this week against the high-soaring Trojans. And it's not like the fact that it's a rivalry only resonates with the underdog, as the Trojans will likely play with more urgency, as well. I see the Trojans getting some separation late from the Bruins and getting the cover.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the USC Trojans minus 10.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the USC vs. UCLA game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!