Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 9:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
California +10 over USC
California Memorial Stadium – Berkeley, CA
Pac 12 Network
4:00 PM EST. This may appear to be a bounce-back game for the Trojans after they suffered a ghastly defeat at the hands of those pesky Utah Utes last Saturday in Los Angeles. The Utes have been a perpetual thorn in the Trojans side and it was evident that Utah has been living rent free in the Men of Troy’s heads when without their starting quarterback, sans their standout NFL prospect tight-end, and having to convert a safety to running back, the Utes defeated the Trojans 34-32 by way of a walk-off field goal that left the reigning Heisman Trophy winner speechless on the bench. That sentiment seemed to echo across the rest of USC’s personnel, as every player seemed to be slack-jawed and at a loss for words. After the defeat, HC Lincoln Riley would not make any of his players available to the media for a post-game press conference. This was a move highly criticized by many, as it was a bad look for Riley who appeared to be protecting his players from the backlash of such a bitter loss. Frankly, we don’t know what kind of state of mind the Trojans are in this week, and we surely wouldn’t want to find out laying a considerable amount of points on the road in a hostile environment against an old foe with a score to settle.
For the team up north in the beautiful city of Berkeley, USC coming to town is always a big deal and the Golden Bears are always looking for an opportunity to get one over on their downstate rivals. From 2004 to 2017, Cal suffered 14 losses against the Trojans. Over that time, some of those defeats were agonizing, as every time the Bears came close to a victory, USC would always somehow get away. Cal finally had a breakthrough in 2018 in Los Angeles against the Trojans but that was against an “atypical USC”; the same can be said for Cal’s 2021 win before Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams joined forces on the West Coast and led USC back to prominence to where the Trojans were a game away from a College Football Playoff berth, back in the Rose Bowl, and Caleb would snag the Heisman.
The bubble-burst phenomenon has always been an extremely powerful concept, and these days the sport is delivered primarily in a way that defines that bubble. That leads most people -- players included -- to think that a second loss closes the door on any prize that's really worth having. That's not our take, but proof of its pervasiveness is in the profits.
Over the past three years, teams that were in the top 20 at the time that they took a second loss in Week 8 or later have combined for a 4-19-1 record against the number since taking that second loss, and one of those four against-the-spread covers was within the same group so one of them had to cover.
USC is the newest member to this collective and now they’re spotting big lumber to a have-not on the road, not exactly the spot you should be looking for even if you're inclined to stand under the falling rock that is the "bubble-burst" club.
Finally and for what it’s worth, there is also a lookahead aspect to this game, as the Trojans get undefeated #5 Washington in Los Angeles next week. We highlight this because USC could also be fixated on taking the Huskies down to salvage what has to be a disappointing season, all the while overlooking the 3-4 Golden Bears. There are several ways for USC to stub their toe and for Cal to cover, if not pull the upset. We’ll gladly help ourselves to the points.
California +10 -106 (Risking 2.12 units - To Win: 2.00)