Louisville vs USC Odds, Pick & Prediction: How to Bet Holiday Bowl

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Louisville Cardinals vs USC Trojans Odds

December 27
8 p.m. ET
Louisville Cardinals Odds
Point SpreadOver/UnderMoneyline
-110o / -110u
USC Trojans Odds
Point SpreadOver/UnderMoneyline
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

Petco Park plays host to the DIRECTV Holiday Bowl on Wednesday, and one of the teams participating only needs to take a short drive down to San Diego.

That, of course, would be the USC Trojans, while their opponent, the Louisville Cardinals, get a more traditional, vacation-like bowl game experience to close out the year.

A lot of the players that powered these teams to the postseason won't play in this game. Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams has opted out and is expected to enter the NFL Draft, and fellow offensive stars MarShawn Lloyd and Brenden Rice also won't play in this game.

It's a similar story for Louisville, as running back Jawhar Jordan and wide receiver Jamari Thrash have opted out to declare for the NFL Draft.

After a classic in last year's Holiday Bowl, we can only hope for another great game when the Cardinals and Trojans square off.

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Louisville Cardinals

Although the ugly offensive outing against Florida State in the ACC Championship left a bad taste, Louisville had a great season overall.

The Cardinals finished 10-3 with ranked wins over Notre Dame and Duke. They also had close wins over Indiana and Virginia and a loss to Pitt, so Louisville didn't always look the part of a conference champion.

However, the season spoke to Jeff Brohm's ability to squeeze everything out of his roster.

Quarterback Jack Plummer had his best collegiate season with 3,063 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 picks in Brohm's offense. Plummer will play Wednesday, but Jordan (1,128 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns) and Thrash (858 receiving yards and six touchdowns) won't be in action, and that could really slow down the Cardinals offense.

Senior running back Isaac Guerendo, who ran for 649 yards and six scores on 6.0 yards per carry, should get a ton of run, along with Louisville's complementary receivers.

Louisville's defense actually gave up 19.7 points per game this season, and it doesn't look like it will have any major absences in the bowl.

The advanced metrics back up the unit, too, as the Cardinals ranked top-16 in Rush Success, Pass Success and Quality Drives Allowed.

One key Cardinal to watch is defensive end Ashton Gillotte, who finished eighth in the country with 11 sacks.

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USC Trojans

The 2023 season did not go the way the Trojans wanted it to go.

Williams still played great, but the defense didn't improve, the offensive line regressed, and it all fell apart when they played Notre Dame and the top teams in the Pac-12.

Obviously, not having Williams, Lloyd and Rice will limit what USC can do on offense.

That said, I trust Lincoln Riley to scheme some things up with Miller Moss under center. Moss saw some action earlier this season, and the Trojans will still have talented skill players like Tahj Washington — who actually led USC with 963 receiving yards — Zachariah Branch, Duce Robinson, Dorian Singer and running back Austin Jones available tonight.

While the Trojans may not light up the scoreboard, they have the talent and offensive ingenuity to drop 30 points.

The concerning point, like always with USC, is the defense. The Trojans surrendered 34.9 points per game this season — the third-worst mark among all Power 5 teams and ahead of only Vanderbilt and Stanford.

Say it out loud: USC's defense was only better than programs with academic restrictions. Not great.

And the Trojans' D won't be at full strength either, because starting safety Calen Bullock opted out for the NFL Draft and starting linebacker Tackett Curtis entered the transfer portal.

Maybe those defections won't matter, but that's two decent players who won't be out there for a defense that finished 94th in Rush Success Allowed, 101st in Pass Success Allowed and 117th in Quality Drives Allowed.

Louisville vs USC

Matchup Analysis

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

Louisville Offense vs. USC Defense
Rush Success2694
Line Yards9782
Pass Success24101
Finishing Drives6041
Quality Drives17117
USC Offense vs. Louisville Defense
Rush Success1416
Line Yards303
Pass Success2112
Finishing Drives469
Quality Drives2611
Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling3696
PFF Coverage31103
Special Teams SP+5491
Middle 86056
Seconds per Play28.5 (97)26.2 (47)
Rush Rate56.7% (48)44.5% (124)

Louisville vs USC

Betting Pick & Prediction

The betting markets are favoring Louisville by 4.5 points against USC, and that feels right.

For one, the Cardinals had three more regular-season wins than the Trojans with Williams, and the presumptive No. 1 NFL Draft pick won't be able to bail them out tonight.

Louisville has a much better defense and way fewer impactful opt outs, and it should be more motivated to play in this game compared to a USC team that had national title aspirations as recently as October.

Sure, the Cardinals have a bit less star power with Jordan and Thrash not playing, but they're still the more complete team.

A five-point win over a depleted USC squad doesn't feel like too much to ask for, so I'll lay the points with Louisville.

Pick: Louisville -4.5

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