USC vs California Odds, Picks, and Predictions: No Protection Against These Trojans

Caleb Williams and USC are looking for a get-right spot — is Cal's defense ready for a Trojan War? Our college football picks know who to back in this Pac-12 showdown.

Oct 27, 2023 • 10:31 ET • 4 min read

How do you pick yourself up after two straight soul-crushing defeats?

Lincoln Riley and the USC Trojans (6-2) look to answer that question after falling short against both Notre Dame and Utah. Next up awaits the California Golden Bears (3-4), a team simply hoping for an outside look at a bowl game this season. 

Looking at college football odds, the Trojans (-10.5) are expected to get back on track and win by a few scores while the total is set at 66.5. 

Something will have to give as the Bears also enter this contest with one win in their last four tries. I provide my free college football picks and predictions for USC vs. California on Saturday, October 28. 

USC vs California best odds

USC vs California picks and predictions

As should be expected, USC will hold a massive advantage when it has the ball. Heisman odds contender Caleb Williams headlines an elite offense for the second straight year, checking into this matchup ranking fifth in EPA per play, 12th in success rate, and fourth in explosiveness while racking up 45.4 PPG, 481.1 total yards per game, and 7.7 yards per play.

Despite Justin Wilcox holding a reputation as a bright defensive coach, Cal has been bad on defense for two years now and has been regressing for quite some time. After finishing Bottom 5 in success rate a year ago, Cal ranks 123rd in success rate this season and just 118th in EPA per play. The Bears have surrendered at least 439 total yards and 5.9 yards per play to every Pac-12 opponent they have faced thus far.

It’s been an unusual week of preparation for the Trojans as their head coach has been away at points to be treated for pneumonia. He was back at practice on Wednesday and appears to be good to go for this weekend. 

The Trojans have only had one bad offensive performance this season, and that was on the road against a tough Notre Dame team. Cal has been an open door defensively (31.1 PPG, 407.6 total yards per game) so I’d expect Williams and this offense to take out some anger by lighting up the scoreboard in a soft matchup. 

The Bears have been decent offensively (68th in EPA per play) despite featuring their third starting quarterback of the season in redshirt freshman Fernando Mendoza. One clear strength is that the offensive line has performed well above pre-season expectations, ranking third in line yards and fifth in both stuff rate and power success rate. They’ve managed to do this while allowing just 12 sacks across seven games. Their strong performance has paved the way for an effective rushing attack that ranks ninth in EPA per rush, headlined by star sophomore tailback Jaydn Ott, who has 688 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns in six games.

Ott had a productive outing against USC last year, rushing for 50 yards and two touchdowns while adding seven receptions for 70 yards in the Bears’ 41-35 defeat. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital & Co. will need another big performance from their workhorse in Week 9 if they hope to keep pace with the Trojans. 

The rushing lanes should be there against an Alex Grinch defense that’s struggling (100th in EPA per play, 120th in explosiveness) yet again in 2023. USC has been especially vulnerable to the ground game, ranking 112th in EPA per rush and 108th in rushing success rate while allowing five of its eight opponents to run for at least 190 yards. 

Riley’s squad has hit the Over in 10 of its last 11 games in a testament to the “all offense, very little defense” approach to football. USC is 7-1 O/U this season and I see that trend continuing in Week 9. Cal is 4/3 O/U and operates at a fast tempo under Spavital, ranking 11th in plays per game (76.7) while managing at least 24 points in five of its seven games. Give me the Over.

My best bet: Over 66.5 (-110 at BetMGM)
Picks made at time of writing may not reflect live odds.

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USC vs California same-game parlay

Over 66.5

USC -10.5

Here’s a two-leg SGP centered around my best bet on the Over. I’ll go ahead and add USC minus the points as this seems like a perfect get-right spot for the Trojans against a Cal team that simply hasn’t made a mark this season.

USC has a massive advantage when it has the ball; Cal has a slight one when it possesses the rock. For as bad as USC’s defense is, this doesn’t forecast as a very difficult game plan for Grinch — load the box to limit Ott’s efficiency and force the redshirt freshman quarterback to beat you over the top. Cal will still get their points offensively in all probability, but the Trojans could put up close to 50 points as an expectation and it’s hard to expect the Bears to keep pace for four quarters. 

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USC vs California spread and Over/Under analysis

Neither team has been adept at covering spreads this season — USC is just 2-6 ATS while Cal is 2-5 ATS. The Trojans have really struggled on the road (0-3 ATS) but the Bears haven’t exactly protected California Memorial Stadium, going 1-3 ATS at home. 

For as strong as Cal’s offensive line has been, USC’s lone strength defensively has been the big fellas up front. Bear Alexander and company lead the way, ranking 22nd in power success rate and 36th in front-seven havoc. 

That being said, I don’t have much faith in Grinch executing this game plan considering he’s fallen short in his duties repeatedly over the last two seasons, but one would think that USC holds enough advantages in this game to find a cover and get back on the right track after two tough matchups that have little relevance to this game against a reeling Cal team. I lean toward USC minus the points.

USC vs California betting trend to know

USC is 10-1 O/U in its last 11 games against Pac-12 opponents.  Find more college football betting trends for USC vs California.

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USC vs California game info

Location: California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, CA
Date: Saturday, October 28, 2023
Kickoff: 4:00 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Network

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