UCLA BRUINS (8-3)
at USC TROJANS (9-3)
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: USC -3.5, Total: 51.5
No. 22 UCLA looks to bounce back from last week’s loss as it takes on its inner-city rival, No. 23 USC, on Saturday night.
Last year when these two teams matched up, it was the Bruins who were able to get the 38-28 victory. The win helped push UCLA to the Pac-12 championship game, while the Trojans finished a disappointing season after being billed as the No. 1 team in the preseason. Even though UCLA is no longer in the conference title race, the Bruins are still a very talented team that can reach double-figures in victories. QB Brett Hundley (2,637 pass yards, 22 TD, 68% completions) is a great quarterback, but he still has moments where he makes big mistakes. If he is able to limit the turnovers on Saturday against a very talented USC defense, (20.2 PPG allowed, 17th in FBS), then the Bruins will have a good chance to win the game. However, they have really struggled on the road, going 0-5 ATS in their past five road games. The USC season appeared to be headed on a downward spiral after getting blown out by Arizona State, which led to the firing of head coach Lane Kiffin. However, interim coach Ed Orgeron has stepped in and proven himself deserving to be named full-time coach. The Trojans are 6-1 on the season under Orgeron, and sophomore QB Cody Kessler (2,449 pass yards, 15 TD, 65% completions) has really started to thrive under his new coach's direction. The Trojans have been terrific during their past five games, going 4-1 ATS and winning those games by an average of 17.6 PPG.
Who will emerge victorious in this rivalry game? For the answer, connect to College Football Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 regular season and bowl season. The four experts are a combined 52% ATS (109-101-7) in college football Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Dave who is 59% ATS (33-23-2) in Best Bets this season, including 69% ATS (20-9-1) during a run of eight straight weeks of .500 or better. StatFox Brian is 54% ATS (30-26-1) in college football Best Bets this year.
The Bruins' offense enters the game ranked 27th in the nation in scoring with 36.6 points per game. However, in its past three road games, UCLA has averaged only 18.3 PPG. After having to deal with injuries throughout the season at the running back position, head coach Jim Mora moved Myles Jack from linebacker to running back, and the results have been great, with Jack racking up 265 rushing yards and six touchdowns. At the wide receiver position, Shaquelle Evans (42 catches, 604 yards, 8 TD) has been Hundley’s go-to receiver all season, giving the Bruins a big-play threat on offense. On the defensive side of the ball, UCLA has allowed 25.0 PPG this season, but has one of the elite defensive players in the country in LB Anthony Barr. At 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds, Barr (52 tackles, 8 sacks) has terrific size for his position, but his speed and athleticism are what separates him from other linebackers in the country. While Cody Kessler is playing much better at quarterback for USC, Barr has the ability to single-handedly disrupt an offense with his pressure. Look for the Trojans to run the ball at him early, trying to get him to have to do more than just rush the quarterback.
Sophomore RB Javorius Allen (576 rush yards, 6.5 YPC, 11 TD) has became the go-to ball carrier for the Trojans, rushing for at least 133 yards in three of the past four games. At 215 pounds, he is the type of running back that can wear down the opponent, and by the time the fourth quarter rolls around, he is nearly impossible to tackle. The Trojans also have one of the most talented receivers in all of the country in WR Marqise Lee (44 catches, 604 yards, 2 TD). While the numbers are not close to what they were last season when he gained 1,721 yards with 14 scores, Lee is still one of the most dangerous receivers in the country. Opposing defenses have double-teamed Lee on a consistent basis the entire season, and the Trojans offense has been able to open up the past few weeks. If Kessler is able to get time to throw the ball, Lee will have some opportunities to make the big play. While Orgeron deserves a ton of the credit for the improvement of the Trojans offense, the defense has been very good for USC as well, allowing just 337 total YPG, including only 290 YPG at home. Junior S Dion Bailey (53 tackles, 5 INT) has proven to be as talented of a player in the secondary as there is in the Pac-12. Look for Bailey to do a little of everything, which could also include spying on quarterback Brett Hundley.