The Crosstown Showdown in Los Angeles has lost a bit of its luster this season as both USC and UCLA limp to the finish line.
But there’s still betting value to be found when the teams meet on Saturday at the Coliseum.
Let’s take a look at where the value lies.
The Trojans, who entered the season as the favorites to win the Pac-12, were hoping to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Meanwhile, two weeks ago, UCLA was 6-2 and lurking, hoping to sneak into the Pac-12 Championship.
UCLA vs. USC (3:30 p.m. ET)
- Spread: USC -5.5
- Total: 63.5 points
- Moneyline: UCLA: +176, USC: -215
Well, the teams have now lost two straight and are simply playing for pride and bowl positioning.
Why are we backing the Trojans on Saturday? Because they will have the best player (QB Caleb Williams) and the best unit (offense) on the field.
USC’s offense, as expected, has been explosive. The Trojans are full of playmakers and are averaging 476 yards (No. 9 in the country) and 43.8 points per game (No. 3).
Yes, the offensive line has struggled and Williams has been sloppier this season than last, but USC has still scored more than 40 points in 8 of 11 games.
It’s not always pretty, but the Trojans still find ways to light up the scoreboard.
Also, how many points will they really need to score this week?
UCLA has scored a combined 17 points over the past two weeks and has gone over the 30-point mark just three times this season.
USC’s defense is terrible and certainly capable of allowing the Bruins to post season-highs in yards and points, but I’m not confident the Bruins will be able to keep up with the Trojans.
USC fired defensive coordinator Alex Grinch two weeks ago, and although I don’t expect that to have a drastic impact on the defense – it can’t in such a short amount of time – there is the possibility of a dead-cat bounce.
The Trojans don’t stack up well in the trenches, but they aren’t devoid of talent either.
If USC is motivated to win this rivalry game – and there’s no reason to think it won’t be – I think the defense will get just enough stops to let the offense take over.
If the Bruins are going to cover, or win straight up, they’ll need to do so on the strength of their defense. UCLA is giving up just 16.4 points and 289.9 yards per game, both tops in the Pac-12.
Betting on College Football?
However, those numbers might not be as impressive as they appear. UCLA, obviously, has yet to play USC, but the Bruins also avoided both Washington and Oregon this season.
The Bruins have faced just one of the five-best scoring offenses in the Pac-12 and that offense, Oregon State, scored 36 points.
USC has underachieved this season, but that doesn’t mean the talent isn’t there. The Trojans have the better roster on paper, let’s just hope they play up to it this weekend.
Pick: Trojans -5.5