#7 USC Trojans vs #16 UCLA Bruins (11/19 @ 8:00 PM EST)
Spread: USC -2
Money Line: USC -127 / UCLA +107
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Overview and Betting Info
The #7 USC Trojans (9-1) will be heading across LA to take on the #16 UCLA Bruins (8-2) for a prime-time Saturday night matchup. USC has won five of their last seven meetings, but UCLA blew out the Trojans last season. USC currently leads the PAC-12, with UCLA just 1.5 games back.
Both teams are 6-4 against the spread, covering three times in their previous five games. USC and UCLA have both gone over the total seven times.
USC is averaging 499.4 yards per game and leads the PAC12 in scoring this season, thanks to the stellar play of quarterback Caleb Williams. The Oklahoma transfer has 3,010 yards, with 31 touchdowns and two interceptions. Add to that 283 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, and you can see why he’s in the Heisman running. He is coming off a quiet week where he was pulled early in a win against Colorado, but the four previous games saw him throw for over 360 yards.
Williams will be helped this week by the likely return of Jordan Addison (587 yards, 7 TD) and Mario Williams (493 yards, 4 TDs), who join Tahj Washington (510 yards, 4 TD) to form a talented trio of pass-catchers. Teams have failed to contain them when all three are active, and they should be in for a bit of night against a questionable Bruins secondary.
The passing attack has been supported by the play of running back Travis Dye, who has 884 yards and nine touchdowns on the year. He’s scored in every full game he’s played this year (pulled early in blowouts against Rice and Colorado) and is averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He and Williams have been giving defenses fits all year, and should find success Saturday against an average Bruins defense.
The Trojan’s defense allows 394 yards per game, ranking them in the middle of PAC 12. It’s a unit that has underwhelmed, especially in the secondary. They are giving up career days to a few different quarterbacks, including a total collapse in the second half of the Cal game. They have a talented safety in Calen Bullock, who leads the team with 4 assists, but the rest of the unit has been making too many mistakes that lead to big plays.
The defensive line is a bit better, led by a breakout season from Yui Tuipulotu. The defensive end leads all FBS players with 11.5 sacks, including 4.5 over his last two games. The issue to watch will be how they handle dual-threat quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. They were lit up by the two similar quarterbacks in Jayden de Laura (380 passing yards, 54 rushing yards, 3 TD) and Cameron Rising (415 passing yards, 60 rushing, 5 TDs). It’s a troubling trend that the Trojans will need to end. Saturday.
The UCLA offense averages 504 yards per game, largely thanks to quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The senior has been fantastic through the air (2,385 yards, 20 TD) and on the ground (463 yards, 7 TD), making him the toughest challenge for the Trojans Saturday night. He’s supported by two standout receivers in Jake Bobo (651 yards, 6 TD) and Kazmeir Allen (1 TD). They both have over 40 receptions and have been DTR’s favorite targets all season. Expect to see Allen get some carriers on Saturday, as the Trojans have been using him to run the ball in their previous two games.
The Bruins have one of the top rushers in FBS, Zach Charbonnet. The running back is 13th in the country with 1,145 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s averaging a ridiculous 7.5 yards per carry and has gone over 150 yards and scored in his last five games. He’s gone for over 100 yards in all but one game this season when he was pulled early. He combines with DTR to form the most dangerous backfield in football.
The UCLA defense allows 378 yarders per game and has been giving up 26 points per game. That’s the 4th fewest points in the PAC, but they’ve given up 30+ points in five of their last six games. That one exception was against a bad Stanford team. It’s a troubling trend coming into a matchup against one of the best offenses in the country, but it may only take a few key stops to win this game.
The Bruins will continue to rely heavily on Laiatu Latu, who has eight sacks and has forced three fumbles on the year. They will need someone to step forward in the secondary, with just three interceptions between their defensive backs (9 overall) and just one who has more than one pass deflection. USC can spread the ball out and take shots downfield, so how this unit responds will likely be the key to deciding this game.
Free Pick: USC -2
As good as UCLA has been, we don’t think they are good enough to hang with this USC team. The Bruins lost two of their last four, including a bad one at home against Arizona. More alarming is their defensive struggles, highlighted by allowing 36 points to a broken ASU team. They’ve relied on their offense to carry them, but they’ll need help to keep up with a deeper USC attack. Neither of these defenses are reliable, but we trust USC’s a bit more right now.
We’re giving up the two points to take the Trojans Saturday night.