The battle for the victory bell returns as rivalry week is underway in Southern California.
Both squads enter this contest amid a freefall — the UCLA Bruins were swept by the Arizona schools and rumors are flying about head coach Chip Kelly’s future with the program, while the USC Trojans have lost four of their last five games.
Looking at college football odds, the Trojans are 6.5-point favorites while the total is set at 65.5.
I’ve cast my eyes on the player prop market for Saturday’s best bet and honed in on one Bruin who will look to exploit this vulnerable Trojans defense. Read on for my best bet and free college football picks and predictions for UCLA vs. USC on Saturday, November 18.
UCLA vs USC best odds
UCLA vs USC picks and predictions
According to reports earlier this week, UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly is expected to be let go following this game against the USC Trojans. His tenure hasn’t gone according to plan as he’s had the Bruins playing .500 football (33-33) across six seasons, and the program decided he wasn’t the man they required as they venture off for the Big Ten in 2024.
On the other side of things, Lincoln Riley has some serious reality to grapple with after his Trojans dropped four of their last five games to fall out of national relevancy — an unthinkable turn of events for most teams featuring the reigning Heisman winner. Hence the 12:30 pm local kick-off time! Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has already been canned, but the future is looking more uncertain than seemed possible at the beginning of the year for this program as it preps for future Big Ten life sans its star quarterback.
This is likely quarterback Caleb Williams’ last game in a Trojans uniform. USC has a bye week coming up and it’s highly unlikely that the potential No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick suits up for a bowl game.
This is a longstanding rivalry in which these teams have met every year since 1936. Recent history has favored the Trojans, but only slightly — they’re 6-5 over the last 11 meetings overall and 3-2 in the last five at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Last year’s meeting was a beatdown in which quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson racked up six touchdowns in a 62-33 Bruins win.
Now, let’s get into the matchups. It’ll be strength-on-strength when USC has the ball. This Williams-led offense checks in at fourth in EPA per play, 12th in success rate, and third in explosiveness, managing elite numbers despite the horror show on the other side of the ball. UCLA defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn has been a revelation, leading a strong group that ranks 10th in EPA per play and 25th in success rate.
Despite their woes, the Bruins’ offense still holds a metrics advantage over the Trojans, checking in at 73rd in EPA per play and 69th in success rate offensively compared to 127th in EPA per play and 113th in success rate for the Trojans’ much-maligned “stop” unit.
I will keep fading this USC defense until the well runs dry. It has allowed at least 34 points in each of its last seven games and has surrendered 41 or more points seven times in that span in a tried-and-true display of futility.
The way I’ll attack them this week is through the player props board, where UCLA wide receiver Logan Loya is listed with a receiving yardage prop of just 43.5 — too low for my liking, and good for an Over play. The unassuming slot man has surprisingly emerged as this offense’s go-to man, handling at least five targets in seven straight games while averaging 7.9 targets per game in that span.
Collin Schle, last week’s starter, is a run-first quarterback, so the passing offense should benefit with Ethan Garbers back under center and facing a feeble Trojans defense that ranks 110th in EPA per pass, 85th in passing success rate, and 118th in passing explosiveness.
My best bet: Logan Loya Over 43.5 receiving yards (-114 at FanDuel)
Picks made at time of writing may not reflect live odds.
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UCLA vs USC same-game parlay
Logan Loya Over 43.5 receiving yards
Caleb Williams Over 300.5 passing yards
Tahj Washington Over 80.5 receiving yards
How about a three-leg player prop SGP? This is a highly volatile game between two teams in freefall to end the year, so I see no reason to feign overconfidence in a side and will instead focus on a market with more clarity in this matchup — the props market.
In addition to my best bet on Loya’s receiving yardage prop, I’ll target two pieces in USC’s offense to exceed their expectation for Saturday. The first is Caleb Williams to throw over 300.5 passing yards in what is likely his last game with the Trojans, playing at home, in a rivalry game. He’ll be ready to play and play well. The second is his favorite receiver, Tahj Washington, to eclipse his prop of 80.5, fitting the narrative of a big Williams passing day.
Washington has topped that number in each of his last four games while averaging 104.5 receiving yards per game. UCLA’s defense is good, but umm … so is Williams, in case you haven’t heard, and the way to attack this Bruins defense is in the secondary.
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UCLA vs USC spread and Over/Under analysis
The Trojans are favored by 6.5 points at most locations, although some spots are beginning to show -7. The total has been set at 65.5.
It’s difficult to have confidence in either side. My numbers tell me to take the Bruins against the spread as they’ve been great on one side of the ball and below average on the other, compared to the Trojans, who have been great on one side of the ball and legendarily poor on the other. That’s not the recipe you usually see for the Bruins being a touchdown underdog in a rivalry game.
The uncertainty regarding this team’s readiness is enough to keep me away from making a play on the Bruins, who now have to face a Trojans team that should still give a solid effort at home in the regular season finale. That requires giving some credence to Riley to have his squad ready, which is not a leap of faith I’m willing to make either. Still, do you want to fade Williams in what will likely be his last college game?
Known for his offensive prowess, Kelly hasn’t been able to get this Bruins’ offense clicking in 2023. The quarterback room has been a mess — true freshman Dante Moore has started five games, redshirt junior Garbers has started four, and transfer Collin Schlee started last week’s game. It’s expected to be Garbers under center this Saturday as Schlee is currently dealing with an injury.
This is a clash of styles as the Bruins have been dead set on the Under (2-8 O/U) while the Trojans have been an Over machine (9-2 O/U). I lean toward the Over as even UCLA’s struggling offense should move the ball in a soft matchup and Williams will find the end zone a few times in his anticipated finale.
UCLA vs USC betting trend to know
USC is 3-0 O/U across its last three home games. Find more college football betting trends for UCLA vs USC.
UCLA vs USC game info
|Location:||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA|
|Date:||Saturday, November 18, 2023|
|Kickoff:||3:30 p.m. ET|
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