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Cal vs USC Betting Odds & Picks: Can Trojans Cover in Los Angeles?

Cal vs USC Betting Odds & Picks: Can Trojans Cover in Los Angeles? article feature image

Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images. Pictured: Cal running back Jaydn Ott.

  • USC hosts Cal as it continues its quest for a Pac-12 title in Lincoln Riley's first season.
  • Will the Golden Bears find success against a Trojans defense that has struggled this season?
  • Thomas Schlarp previews the game and shares his best bet below.

Cal vs USC Odds

Saturday, Nov. 5
10:30 p.m. ET
Cal Odds
-114o / -106u
USC Odds
-114o / -106u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

USC marches forward towards a Pac-12 title after it cracked the top 10 of this season's first College Football Playoff poll. The high-scoring Trojans rebounded from their only loss of the season last week with a shootout win over Arizona.

Cal's Pac-12 pains continued last week in its home blowout loss against Oregon. The Golden Bears have dropped four straight conference games with another top-25 opponent on deck after this weekend.

Southern Cal's offense has been one of the best in the nation, but its defense continues to be a liability.

Does the Cal offense have enough to deliver the coup de grace to USC's CFP aspirations, or will the Trojans defense round into form as the season draws toward its close?

California Golden Bears

Following a 3-1 start to the season that included a one-score loss to Notre Dame and an 18-point victory over Arizona, life for Cal has become increasingly difficult amidst its current four-game losing streak.

No. 9 USC marks the second straight opponent Cal has played that's ranked inside the top 10, after losing 42-24 against Oregon last week. The Bears held a 10-7 edge before the Ducks scored 28 unanswered points.

Freshman quarterback Kai Millner was inserted in the fourth quarter in place of Jack Plummer and completed 8-of-11 passes for a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions against mostly Oregon backups. Despite the success, Cal coach Justin Wilcox has indicated that the starting job remains that of Plummer.

The Golden Bears have not topped 24 points scored in their losing streak with Plummer under center. The Purdue transfer has completed just 61.1% of his passes for just under 2,000 yards with a 13:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Plummer has had little assistance from a run game that ranks 106th nationally with 113.4 yards per game and 119th in Run Success. The Golden Bears have averaged just 50.5 rushing yards over the last four games.

Cal's defense will likely be stretched thin by the potent Trojan passing attack. The Golden Bears rank 126th nationally and last in the conference with 292.3 passing yards allowed per game. Bo Nix torched this secondary for 412 passing yards a week ago.

Quarterbacks have had plenty of time to pick apart the Cal secondary thanks to a weak pass rush. Cal has just 13 sacks (97th) through eight games and ranks a paltry 131st in Pass Blocking on defense.

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USC Trojans

Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams have lived up to the hype so far with one of the nation's best offenses.

The Heisman candidate has led a unit that has scored at least 42 points in six of eight games and has been a perfect counter-balance to an otherwise mediocre defense.

Williams' 24 passing touchdowns are the third most in the country. Only 11 quarterbacks average more than his 297.8 yards passing per game, but the Oklahoma transfer hasn't be the most accurate, failing to complete more than 64.7% of his passes.

Wide receivers Jordan Addison and Mario Williams have combined to be one of the best pass-catching duos in the Pac-12, but both were limited in practice this week, will the latter looking more likely to play in this game than the former.

While USC's defense allowed 380 passing yards last week to Jayden de Laura and Arizona, the run defense has been its biggest issue over the course of the season.

Every opponent outside of Arizona State has rushed for at least 138 yards, with five of eight opponents scoring multiple times on the ground. Utah rushed for four touchdowns.

Despite a porous defense at times, the Trojans are only allowing 24.0 points per game thanks to some tremendous turnover luck in the first half of the season (15 turnovers in four games). USC has only generated one turnover in each of the last two games as Utah and Arizona scored 43 and 37 points, respectively.

Cal vs USC Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Cal and USC match up statistically:

Cal Offense vs USC Defense
Rush Success91125
Line Yards9197
Pass Success11194
Pass Blocking**12286
Finishing Drives7270
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

USC Offense vs Cal Defense
Rush Success6119
Line Yards1100
Pass Success12113
Pass Blocking**23131
Finishing Drives2352
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling8276
PFF Coverage10552
SP+ Special Teams82115
Seconds per Play26.4 (71)26.6 (75)
Rush Rate43.9% (119)48.6% (95)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

Cal vs USC Betting Pick

There's never a doubt that USC's offense will show up to play, but the defense makes backing USC against any Pac-12 team quite a chore. The Trojans are only 2-3 ATS in their last five. Four of those games USC failed to generate more than one turnover.

Cal's offense isn't going to set the world on fire, but when it can find any sort of success on the ground to help out Jack Plummer, it does much better. Recall against Arizona when Jaydn Ott rushed for 274 yards as the Golden Bears scored 49 points.

Ott's been bottled up since that game, but the Trojans will be the second-worst run defense he's faced in the five games since. Throw in the fact that USC will be down likely one, if not two of its top receivers, and the Trojans offense may not be quite as explosive.

Cal is down bad right now, but enough is working in its favor on Saturday to keep this one within three touchdowns.

Pick: Cal +21.5

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