CFB: USC at California (8:00 PM ET, ABC)

CFB: USC at California (8:00 PM ET, ABC)

Even though the season is roughly just a third of the way over, this week has survival mode written all over it already. In mid-September, USC and Cal had national title hopes, now the loser of their head-to-head contest on Saturday could be through in th


2009-10-02

Even though the season is roughly just a third of the way over, this week has survival mode written all over it already. In mid-September, USC and Cal had national title hopes, now the loser of their head-to-head contest on Saturday could be through in the Pac-10 race. The Trojans are a small 4-1/2 point favorite at last check at Sportsbook.com. Go to the BETTING TRENDS page to see what bettors think of the line.

This isn't the kind of game USC (3-1, 1-3 ATS) has a problem getting up for and playing their best, however a deeper question exists beyond all the quarterback chatter. What's the deal with the rest of the Trojans? The offensive line is supposed to be great, thus far that's very debatable except in spurts. The defense has a ton of talent, but needs the vocal leadership of Taylor Mays as a rallying point, especially in times of adversity. Could the quarterback play be better, of course it, yet the fact remains these are 18 and 19 year olds and no matter what kind of uniform they where, they are going to have rough spots and it's up to their teammates to step it up and help whoever is under center. The Trojans are 8-1 ATS as 3.5-10-point road favorites.

Off the blowout loss to Oregon, this is the defining game that will tell the story of the Cal Bears (3-1, SU&ATS) in 2009. Forget USC's Washington State triumph, the Trojans haven't looked this vulnerable early in the season since Pete Carroll's first year in 2001. Coach Jeff Tedford knows he has the better quarterback in Kevin Riley and the best running back in Jahvid Best coming into this matchup. The Trojans might have better overall personnel on defense, but with players like defensive end Tyson Alualu and cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson, Cal can certainly compete, especially if they can control the USC running game. The Bears are 9-4 ATS at Berkeley against ranked opponents.

This Strawberry Canyon collision takes on a completely different significance with each team having a Pac-10 loss. The loser at best is looking at Holiday Bowl as most reachable goal from this juncture, not exactly soul-stirring when dreaming of national title chase. Confidence will be extremely important, since both will take shots and how they react will figure into the outcome.

California is 8-0 ATS at home the last two years, but the visitor is 10-3 against the spread in this anticipated Pac-10 tilt. With California 1-7 and 3-5 ATS in last eight meetings and the Trojans 5-16 ATS after allowing 17 points or less in three straight games, survivor gear required.

The StatFox Forecaster says USC will cover. If you agree, hit the confirm button on your wager at Sportsbook.com after checking that side.

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