Free Expert NCAA Football Picks: USC Trojans at UCLA Bruins Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 11/19/2014
USC Trojans at UCLA Bruins, Saturday Nov. 22, 8 p.m. ET
The Pac-12 South is a complete mess. We can say with certainty that Colorado, at 0-7 in the conference, is not going to win the division and head to Pac-12 Championship Game. The other five teams could, though. Some need a lot more help than others - Utah would have a better chance at winning the lottery. Both of these teams are at the forefront of that race, but only the Bruins control their own destiny. If they beat USC and Stanford to close out their season then they are the champs. Simple. USC needs to win this, their final Pac-12 game, and hope Arizona State loses. The Sun Devils need to win two and need USC to win this one. Arizona needs two wins, and then they need UCLA to win this one but lose to Stanford. Utah needs two wins, UCLA to beat USC and lose to Stanford, and Arizona to beat Arizona State.
It's all crazy, but it would be made a whole lot simpler if UCLA just wins their next two. Needless to say, the stakes are very high in this L.A. grudge match.
USC at UCLA Betting Storylines
The Bruins must be haunted by Oct. 4. That is the day that they played an impossibly bad game and still managed to stay within two points of the Utes. It was a bad loss, but they had their chances to come out on top at the end. They flat out blew it, and it is the biggest reason they are in the situation they are in now. A win there and they would be just one win away from the Pac-12 Championship Game - and two wins away from a potential playoff berth.
It seems fitting that USC also finds themselves in this spot because they lost a game to Utah that they should have won - though at least that one was at Utah, so it wasn't quite as ugly as the Bruins' loss at home. That counts as far from the worst home loss the Trojans have suffered this year, though. That is unquestionably when they travelled to Boston College in Week 3 fresh off a win at Stanford and laid an egg against a lousy Eagles' squad. With two losses and two narrow wins in five road games this year, you can hardly call these Trojans road warriors, so the location of this one is far from ideal - even if the travel is hardly crippling for them.
The biggest change for this UCLA team since their two consecutive losses to Utah and Oregon has been their offensive line play. QB Brett Hundley was sacked 10 times by the Utes, and he was harassed like a lost puppy in a cat factory during the Oregon game. I don't want to suggest that they are an elite offensive line all of a sudden - Hundley was still sacked four times by Arizona - but they have been dramatically better. They have gotten healthier, and that has added depth and options - two things that were sorely missing early on. USC relies on their defensive line to be disruptive - and that is often effective for them - so it is much easier to believe in the Bruins now than it would have been a month ago when the offensive line was as bad as any a power 5 team has fielded all year.
The offensive script for the Trojans isn't exactly tough to figure out. They are a team that is pretty average on the ground, but they have a Top 20 passing attack. When they win they score a lot of points, and when they do that it happens through the air. The Bruins do a lot of things well, but defending the pass is not one of them. Their 247.2 passing yards per game allowed ranks just 97th in the country. USC will look to establish the pass early and often, and their ability to do so will dictate how the game turns out. As an aside, this is a good example of how a statistic can be misleading in isolation. Three teams that rank well below the Bruins in this category are strong playoff contenders - TCU, Mississippi State and Oregon. In fact, the Ducks are better against the pass than just one team - SMU. Having a real deficiency is far from fatal - as long as you can compensate for it in other ways.
USC Trojans at UCLA Bruins NCAA Football Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with the Bruins favored by 3.5 points. It has remained largely stable at that level, so sharp money has not registered an opinion in this one yet. The total opened at 61.
The Trojans are 1-4 ATS the last five times they have played at UCLA. Seven of the last eight meetings overall have gone "under" the total. The Bruins, who are coming off a bye week, are 4-0 ATS the last four times they have played following a week of rest.
USC Trojans at UCLA Bruins College Football Predictions and Picks
The Bruins team we have seen in their last two games is a different and better one than we had seen before, and they have had an extra week of preparation to sharpen up for this one. That makes them tough. USC has won their last two handily, but the fact is that their conference schedule has been pretty soft and that in their three toughest conference games they have two losses and a narrow two-point win against Arizona. They are not the team that their record would suggest, and they have not stepped up in big moments. I give the Bruins a big coaching edge as well. I'd love to lay the three points and bet the Bruins if I could, but 3.5 would work as well. The Bruins are the pick.
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