Pac-12 Preview: USC at UCLA

UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for 349 yards and four TDs and also had a pair of rushing TDs in last year's 62-33 blowout win at USC.

No. 7 USC Trojans at No. 16 UCLA Bruins

Line: USC -2.5

Total: 76

Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

When: Saturday, 11/19 at 8:00 p.m. ET


No. 16 UCLA is out of College Football Playoff contention following its loss to Arizona last week, and it will be hoping to hand No. 7 USC the same fate on Saturday night.

The Trojans are sitting at 9-1 (7-1 Pac-12), putting them in contention for their third conference title game appearance in six years and their first-ever trip to the CFP. They have their best record through 10 games since 2008.

Sportsbooks opened USC as a 2.5-point favorite, which is where the line remained as of Wednesday afternoon. Saturday night’s total opened at 73.5 before getting quickly bet up to 76.

These teams have gone ‘over’ the total in four of their last five meetings, and USC has gone ‘over’ in five of its last six games this season. The Trojans rank third nationally in scoring (42.4 ppg) after cruising to a 55-17 win over Colorado last Friday—they have scored at least 41 points in four straight games.

They have not been blowing most of their opponents out though, sneaking past Arizona and Cal after losing to then-No. 20 Utah in a 43-42 final last month. DraftKings has USC listed as the +190 ‘chalk’ to win the Pac-12 title game, while UCLA is listed at 12-1.

Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams finds himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation, although he is listed behind four players in the betting market at 12-1. He has thrown for 3,010 passing yards with 31 touchdowns, and he has rushed for another 283 yards and six scores.

Williams is going to have to do more following a season-ending injury to top running back Travis Dye, who was carted off the field in the win over Colorado. Dye had rushed for 884 yards and nine touchdowns this season, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Senior running back Austin Jones, who had 74 yards on 11 carries against the Buffaloes, is now going to be the featured back.

He is facing a UCLA defense that has allowed at least 32 points in four of its last five games. The Bruins have been excellent on the offensive side of the ball though, and they scored 62 points in a blowout win over USC last year. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for two more in that win.

He has completed 71.0% of his passes for 2,385 yards, 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season. Thompson-Robinson has also rushed for 463 yards and seven scores, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. His top target in the passing game has been senior wide receiver Jake Bobo, who has 43 receptions for 651 yards and six scores.

The quarterback play has overshadowed what has been a very impressive season from senior running back Zach Charbonnet, who has racked up 1,145 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging a ridiculous 7.5 yards per carry. He had 181 yards and three scores in the loss to Arizona last week.

USC has won five of the last seven meetings between these teams, but it has only covered the spread twice in its last seven games overall. The Bruins are 5-2 ATS in their last seven contests, and they are 8-1 SU in their last nine home games.

The pick: UCLA +110

There are really no excuses for UCLA’s loss to Arizona as a 19.5-point favorite last week, but I expect the experienced Bruins to refocus in time for Saturday night’s rivalry showdown. USC lost some of its balance offensively when Dye went down with a season-ending injury last week, which could prove to be costly against a balanced UCLA offense. Charbonnet leads the country in yards per carry, while Thompson-Robinson is a lot to handle due to his poise and running ability. The Bruins’ home-field advantage will lead to one or two costly mistakes from USC, which will be too much to recover from.

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