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Week 12 Over / Under Odds for USC Trojans at UCLA Bruins

Who: USC Trojans (7-3, 6-2 PAC 12) at UCLA Bruins (4-6, 2-5 PAC 12)
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena CA
When: Saturday, November 19th at 10:30 PM EST
Over / Under: 51.5 at Bovada Sportsbook

It is often darkest before the dawn in FBS football. A scant 6 weeks ago, USC was in free-fall after a loss to Utah marked the team’s 3rd loss in 4 weeks to open the season. 6 straight PAC-12 wins later, the Trojans are playing with renewed confidence and formerly hot-seated head coach Clay Helton is enjoying the buzz.

This Saturday, the surprise contenders for a conference crown visit neighborhood rival UCLA, a team headed in the opposite direction. Talent is rarely an issue for the Bruins, and sophomore starting QB Josh Rosen began the year in fine form posting a plus-138 passer rating. But then he got hurt, out for the season. Backup Mike Fafaul has been ineffectual, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and behaving carelessly with the ball.

The current over/under at Bovada is 51.5, while the money line is -400 for the University of Southern California.

USC – Never Look A Gift Horse…

A playable future would be on the USC Trojans to make it to the PAC 12 championship game by beating out Colorado in their division, whom they stand 1 game behind but own a tie-breaker on. CU must play Washington State and Utah to close out the regular season.

Early in 2016-17, pundits were writing off the Trojans, having a grand old time trying to figure out who their HC might be next season – Tom Herman from Houston was a favored candidate. No one stopped to consider it might be Clay Helton, the current USC coach who happens to have rattled off a 6-game winning streak.

How did the SoCal sun come out so quickly? With an amazing turn-around from the marquee unit. USC was stymied on offense to begin the season, scoring a combined 16 points in losses to Alabama and Stanford. But they have blossomed into a deadly, balanced attack with QB Sam Darnold (22 TDs and only 6 interceptions), and sophomore RB Ronald Jones II whose 772 yards rushing paces a backfield with over 2000 yards in 10 games.

What Fell Apart For UCLA?

Under Jim Mora, the University of California-Los Angeles Bruins have been a talented and disciplined team, winning 18 games in 2014-15 and 2015-16 combined. How did the wheels come off this season?

The star sophomore QB is sidelined for the year, leaving unproven and gun-shy Mike Fafaul as the handy scapegoat. But the Bruins’ problems go deeper than that. The team simply cannot run the football, averaging a horrible 2.9 yards per carry on the season. Sophomore RB Bolu Olorunfunmi has been a bright spot with 254 yards on just 63 carries, but Fafaul is immobile and not a threat to run in the read-option.

The backup’s latest botch was throwing an interception on the goal line in the squad’s shaky win over pitiful Oregon State last week. But it begs the question, what was he doing passing the ball anyway? As the old saying goes, if you can’t line up and get a yard or 2 when you need to, your other problems are bound to be worse.

Do The Safety Dance

You may not win a bundle, but there are few surer bets this Saturday than USC beating UCLA. The Rose Bowl is essentially a home game for both programs, and though rivalry games tend to be close, this rivalry will help the Trojans stay focused in midst of a winning streak.

While the Bruins have incentive to play hard and potentially finish 6-6 to become bowl-eligible, USC has hopped into the Top 15 after whipping Washington 26-13 last Saturday. 2 more wins could propel them into the Pac-12 Championship game, where a victory would assure a New Year’s bowl berth.

Is there value in the 51.5 over at Bovada? It depends on whether Helton is the type of coach to run up a score to impress the ranking committee.

Most lopsided games in the PAC 12 follow a pattern – hard-fought 1st half, pitch and catch for the favorites in the 2nd. Once the Bruins are worn down, USC will move the ball at will. But a 44-14 or 51-10 final score will depend on Helton’s readiness to leave Darnold on the field late in the 2nd half.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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