Bettors like USC instead of Oregon — for a price

USC quarterback Kedon Slovis walks off the field after a 35-31 win over Colorado on Oct. 25 in Boulder.
(Dustin Bradford / Getty Images)

Money continued to pour in on USC and UCLA through the week in Las Vegas. But boundaries for “sharp windows” have become apparent.

USC opened Sunday as a seven-point home underdog to No. 7 Oregon at Circa Sports in Las Vegas. Sharps — professional bettors — liked the Trojans at that number, causing openers at other sportsbooks to hit the board at Oregon -5 or lower. USC interest continued to show at +5 and +4.5. Stores testing a four-point spread have started to see interest on the Ducks, suggesting the line could settle at 4.5 on game day. Market observers can assume that sharps betting this weekend would like USC at +5 or higher but Oregon at -4 or lower.

UCLA opened as a 4.5-point favorite at Circa against Colorado at the Rose Bowl. Sharps jumped in quickly on a hot home favorite facing a poor traveler coming off a heartbreaking loss. UCLA covered in its last two games by 22 and 13 points against Stanford and Arizona State. Colorado was crushed at Oregon and Washington State before losing a gut-punch finish to USC at home last Friday night.

Straggler stores put UCLA on the board at -5.5 or -6. Favorite money still flowed until the key number of 7 became widely available. Sharps have established that they will bet UCLA aggressively at -6 or less. Game-day action will tell us whether -7 or -7.5 flips perceived value to Colorado.


In other Pac-12 Conference action Saturday, No. 9 Utah will likely close -3.5 or -3 at Washington, and Arizona should close -5.5 or -6 at home against Oregon State.

USC defensive end Christian Rector has missed the last two games trying to recover from an ankle injury. He says he’s now 100% and hopes to play soon.

Oct. 30, 2019

NFL notes

Despite a rare win last week at Chicago, prevailing 17-16 as a three-point dog, the Chargers fired offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt the next day. The offense had averaged just 16.75 points, 297.5 total yards, 35.5 yards rushing and two turnovers in its previous four games.

The red-hot Green Bay Packers come to Carson on Sunday fresh off a 31-24 victory at Kansas City. Green Bay is fourth on the futures board to win the Super Bowl at the Westgate in Las Vegas. The only teams at 10/1 or lower entering Week 9 were New England 3/2, New Orleans 5/1, San Francisco 7/1 and Green Bay 10/1. The Chargers are a distant 60/1 after a 3-5 start in which they are 2-4-2 against the spread.

Sharp betting has been divided in Packers vs. Chargers. There’s clear interest on Green Bay at the key number of -3. But value bettors come in on the Chargers at +3.5. The market may see a tug of war in that tight range all weekend.

The Rams, 25/1 to win the Super Bowl at the Westgate, have a bye this week after beating Cincinnati 24-10 as 12-point favorites in England.

NBA notes

The Lakers will play their first true road games of the season in Texas. They face Dallas on Friday and San Antonio on Sunday. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and company will be fresh at the end of an easy week. The Lakers crushed Charlotte 120-101 and Memphis 120-91, covering the spread by 5.5 and 17.5 points, respectively.

The Clippers will have revenge on their minds Sunday against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. They weren’t competitive Wednesday as 6.5-point underdogs in a 110-96 loss in Salt Lake City, a game Kawhi Leonard sat out for “load management.” That point spread likely would have closed near pick-’em had Leonard suited up. Sportsbooks made a big adjustment because of his absence and the perception that the Clippers might just punt the game on the first night of a back-to-back.

Kawhi Leonard had many reasons for coming to Los Angeles; laying the groundwork for a future career as a leading man in Hollywood was probably not one of them. Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks he could pull it off.

Oct. 30, 2019


World Series notes

Before the World Series gets too far in the rearview mirror, a reminder that the Washington Nationals weren’t just the best team in the playoffs; they were the best team in baseball from the 50-game mark of the regular season.

The Nationals and Houston Astros were both 74-38 over their last 112 games of the regular season, as were the Dodgers. Washington went 12-5 in the playoffs, Houston 10-8 and the Dodgers 2-3. The Nationals were 10-0 in postseason games started by Stephen Strasburg or Max Scherzer.