Sports betting: USC opens the week as a huge favorite over UCLA

USC quarterback Kedon Slovis
USC quarterback Kedon Slovis passed for more than 400 yards in the Trojans’ 41-17 victory over California on Saturday.
(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)

Based on wildly varying results last weekend, USC opened as a 10-point favorite over UCLA at Circa Sports in Las Vegas. It was quickly bet to a 13-point spread, which was a more common opener later at other sports books. The storied college football rivalry renews Saturday at the Coliseum.

Circa posts the first college football point spreads on U.S. soil. Sharps (professional wagerers) clearly loved USC at -10, -11, and -12. Support stopped at -13. Underdog lovers will bide their time just in case public action drives the line to the key number of 14.

Why would experienced bettors want the Bruins (4-6) after they got obliterated at Utah 49-3, missing the point spread by 25 points? Particularly after the Trojans (7-4) looked so good in a 41-17 road rout of California as four-point favorites?

Reversals of fortune are common in sports, particularly a high-emotion sport such as college football. Talented teams bounce back from bad outings. UCLA had been on a nice run before the Utah loss and didn’t suddenly forget how to play football. USC could get overconfident and take its foot off the gas after outgaining Cal 462-263.


In terms of what’s at stake, USC is alive in the Pac-12 South race, but needs leader Utah to lose to one of the bottom teams in the division, Arizona or Colorado. Given that Utah opened as a 21-point favorite in Tucson and will be heavy chalk in Salt Lake City against Colorado (chalk is Vegas slang for favorite because odds used to be written on chalkboards), the Trojans’ fate is largely sealed.

UCLA understands a lot went wrong in the Bruins’ blowout loss to Utah, but their next game against USC would help them sustain their bowl game hopes.

UCLA must beat USC and Cal in its last two games to become bowl-eligible. Motivation can’t get any clearer than that.

Bettors focusing on stats and raw talent see value on USC at less than -13. Sharps keen on reversals and intangibles would take UCLA at +14 (or more).

Neither USC nor UCLA has made money for backers this season after you account for the standard 10% vigorish. Bettors risk $11 to win $10 (or anything in that ratio). USC is 5-5-1 against the spread (ATS), which is 5.0 and 5.5 in real money terms. UCLA is 4-5-1 ATS, which is 4.0 and 5.5 for a loss of 1.5 units.

VSiN will have more on this popular betting attraction later this week.

Other notes

  • UCLA and USC won and covered important basketball games last weekend. UCLA (-8) beat UNLV 71-54 on Friday to move to 3-0 straight up, 2-1 ATS. USC (-3.5) won a litmus test Saturday in Reno against Nevada 76-66. The Trojans are 4-0 straight up, 3-1 ATS.
  • In the NBA, the Clippers have two big home tests coming up this week, Wednesday vs. the Boston Celtics and Friday vs. the Houston Rockets. They’ve shown a distinct road/home split to this point in the season. The Clippers are 1-4 straight up and ATS on the road, but entered the new week 7-1 straight up and ATS at Staples Center after annihilating Atlanta 150-101 as nine-point favorites Saturday night.
  • The Lakers also had their way with Atlanta, winning 122-101 Sunday night as nine-point favorites. That brought the Lakers to 11-2 straight up, 9-4 ATS. Betting markets have continually underestimated the Lakers’ intensity. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are back on the floor for a home-and-home series against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday and Friday nights.
  • In the NHL, the Kings shocked the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 on Saturday as +130 home underdogs. That was their third win in a row after spending weeks as one of the worst teams in the NHL. The Kings have won five of their last six home games and begin a four-game homestand Thursday vs. Edmonton.
  • The Ducks ended a five-game losing streak that had dropped more than 6.5 betting units on the money line with a 4-1 road shocker Saturday at St. Louis as +140 underdogs. That was the opener of a four-game trip.
  • In the NFL, the Rams will likely close as home underdogs to the red-hot Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 25. That would have been unthinkable before the season. The defending NFC champions have been out of sync offensively for most of 2019. Baltimore’s explosive offense is coming off point-spread covers of 17, 20, 26.5 and 30 points in wins over Seattle, New England, Cincinnati and Houston.