College Football Betting Preview & Free Pick: USC vs UCLA

Both teams will have a lot on the line in this weekend’s battle for bragging rights in the city of Los Angeles as the UCLA Bruins face the USC Trojans. Kickoff is set for 3:30 EST on Saturday, November 23 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game will be broadcast nationally on ABC.

The Week 13 college football odds list the Trojans as 14-point favorites on their home field. There is also an over/under of 62.5 points.

USC vs UCLA Game Betting Preview & Vegas Odds

Every win counts when it comes to the job status of USC head coach Clay Helton. It’s no secret that he’s on the hot seat, and so every win will help his cause when the administration makes a decision on his job status at the end of the season. In fact, with this being USC’s regular-season finale, it’s possible that Helton is coaching to keep his job in this game.

Fortunately for the Trojans, they’ve come on strong late in the season. USC has won four of their last five games, losing only to Oregon during that stretch. In fact, if Utah loses one of their two remaining games, the Trojans could get a rematch with Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. However, that scenario will only come to fruition if the Trojans can win this week.

Meanwhile, UCLA is playing to keep their bowl hopes alive. The Bruins had won three games in a row before getting blasted by Utah 49-3 last week. As a result, Chip Kelly’s team must beat USC this week and Cal next week to get to six wins. Of course, a month ago, a bowl game being on the table with two games left would have been a dream scenario for UCLA.

There’s no denying that Kelly has made progress in his second season with the Bruins. But getting to a bowl game would be a concrete step forward and give UCLA a huge confidence boost heading into 2020. Even if they can just win one of their remaining games, the Bruins would secure a winning record in conference play and finish no worse than third place in the Pac-12 South.

In addition to all of that, UCLA would love to score a second straight win in their rivalry with USC. The Bruins pulled off a surprise win last season to help prevent the Trojans from reaching a bowl game. Of course, prior to that, USC had won three in a row and eight of the last 11 in this series.

Free College Football Against the Spread Pick: UCLA +14

I know that USC is the better team and that UCLA still has a long way to go, but it’s hard to see this rivalry game being decided by more than two touchdowns. These two teams have played close, competitive games the past two seasons. With UCLA on the rise and USC still not back to an elite level, I think that trend continues. I’ll lean toward the Bruins to beat the spread.

Having said that, I have to acknowledge the great performance by the USC offense last week against a top-notch Cal defense. The Trojans put up 41 points against one of the top defenses in the Pac-12. It was a testament to how far freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis has come this season and what USC is capable of producing.

However, I still have some questions about USC’s ability to put together back-to-back performances like that. Even with Stephen Carr back from injury, USC’s backfield is still missing two important pieces in Vavae Malepeai and Markese Stepp. Even in their recent wins, the Trojans have struggled to run the ball. They’ve now been held below 100 yards rushing in three straight games. That shouldn’t be a huge problem against a lackluster UCLA defense. But the Trojans continue to put everything on Slovis, which can be risky with a young quarterback, especially when they have to cover 14 points.

On the other side of the ball, the UCLA offense is better equipped to keep up in a shootout than Cal was last week. I’m not going to put much stock in the Bruins being stifled by Utah last week. The Utes are on another level defensively. Prior to that game, the Bruins had scored at least 31 points in four straight games. Running back Joshua Kelley has emerged during the second half of the season as a bonafide playmaker. More importantly, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is coming into his own.

Despite a rough outing last week, Thompson-Robinson should have a little more success just by virtue of facing a team other than Utah. While USC has had a few quality performances on the defensive side of the ball this year, they’ve had plenty of problems as well. Against a team with capable playmakers and a mobile quarterback, I’m not sure I can bank on the USC defense keeping the Bruins in check for four quarters.

In the end, I think UCLA can score enough points to keep them in this game. As mentioned, they’ve scored at least 31 points in four of their last five games. If they can get anywhere close to that number, the Trojans and their one-dimensional offense could have a hard time maintaining a two-touchdown lead. That’s enough for me to take UCLA and the points in this rivalry game.

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