USC vs. California College Football Week 14 Expert Picks

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Chase Garbers #7 of the California Golden Bears. Abbie Parr/Getty Images/AFP.

At some point, maybe, the action on the field between USC and Cal will occupy the public’s attention. So far, however, the distractions off the field have ruled the day in this rivalry game. The Distraction Bowl was originally supposed to be held on Nov. 13, but four days before the game, more than two dozen positive COVID tests on the Cal roster forced a postponement. So, instead, the two teams will meet on conference championship Saturday, after most other teams have completed their regular season. 

USC Trojans vs. California Golden Bears  

Saturday, December 4, 2021 – 11:00 PM EST at California Memorial Stadium

It also means that both teams have little to play for except pride. USC and Cal both lost last Saturday, dropping them to 4-7 and rendering them ineligible for a bowl game. 

Then, just as the new game week arrived, another distraction wiped the actual football contest off the radar. USC, who fired coach Clay Helton in September, finally found his replacement, bigging off the biggest coaching hire coup in recent memory, by poaching Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma. Riley won’t coach the team on Saturday, but his arrival will overshadow the players and game plans for much of the week. Which team should we put in our college football picks?

Look to the Future

USC lost its third straight and fifth in the last six, dropping a non-conference game to BYU, 35-31. It was the sixth straight week the Trojans have given up at least 31 points. 

While the stretch run has been a disappointment to this year’s team, USC is getting a glimpse of the future that Riley will inherit. Freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart, who arrived on campus as the National High School Player of the Year, has started each of the last two weeks after starter Kedon Slovis went down with an injury. He threw for 325 yards in his debut against UCLA, becoming the first USC quarterback in more than 40 years to make his first career start against the Bruins. Last week, he threw for 248 yards and had a touchdown passing and one running. 

In addition to Slovis, the Trojans were without their starting running back, Keaontay Ingram, who suffered an upper-body injury against UCLA and didn’t dress for the game. Left tackle Courtland Ford also didn’t dress. The team has not updated the status for either player heading into Cal week. 

Kedon Slovis #9 of the USC Trojans. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP.

Late Season Setback

Cal was blown out by UCLA on Saturday, 42-14, ending a streak of three wins in four games that helped the Golden Bears turn around a 1-5 start. 

The Cal defense collapsed against UCLA, giving up a season-high scoring total and matching the number of points it had allowed in the previous four games combined. Cal entered the game leading the Pac-12 in run defense, at 121.5 yards a game, then gave up 282 to the Bruins. UCLA averaged 6.4 yards per carry, nearly three yards more than the average Cal had been giving up.

Quarterback Chase Garbers and the offense also had a long day. Garbers managed just 125 yards and had his lowest passer rating of the season. Part of the problem was protection, as he was sacked four times.  

The loss came after arguable the team’s best performance of the year the week before, in a blowout of Stanford. The defense allowed just 43 yards on the ground and Cal set a series record for total offense with 636 yards. 

The Pick

Will the real Cal Golden Bears please stand up? The result of Saturday’s game will depend on if we see the team that played Stanford or the one that showed up against UCLA. Now back home and playing on Senior Day, look for Cal to be dialed in. USC, meanwhile, will have all of its attention focused on someone who isn’t there yet. Lincoln Riley is coming, and that will have more of an impact on the Trojans than anything that happens on the field on Saturday. Look for Cal to blow past the distracted Trojans and beat the college football odds.

College Football Pick: California -2.5 (-116) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.