USC-UCLA showdown to determine which bettors cash in on regular-season win totals

Quarterback Kedon Slovis and USC face rival UCLA on Saturday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Many bets are at stake in Saturday’s UCLA-USC rivalry showdown (12:30 p.m., ABC). Not just investments in either team or on the over/under, but preseason bets made on each team’s regular season win total.

These are popular summer props that allow customers to bet whether a team will go over or under its posted win total. Only regular-season games are counted. Conference championships, bowl games and the Final Four are excluded.

Before the season, USC’s market projection was seven victories. The over was a slight favorite, meaning many stores were charging more than the standard 11/10 to bet that the Trojans would exceed that target (12/10 or 13/10 were common). USC enters its regular-season finale with exactly seven wins (7-4). A victory against UCLA cashes over bets. A loss results in a push, which refunds all bets in either direction.

UCLA’s expectation was a game lower. Bettors could take over or under six wins. The Bruins are 4-6 with two games to play. A loss Saturday, and the under is a winner. Should UCLA spring an upset as a two-touchdown underdog, it could rally for a push by beating California next week.


It’s common for many props to already be determined before season’s end. Four Pac-12 unders have already cashed (or overs failed). Projected Pac-12 champion Washington had a high target of 9.5 wins. The Huskies have to win out just to finish 8-4. Washington State can’t hit its target of eight from its current 5-5 perch. Stanford has to win out for a 6-6 record, certain to fall below its target of 6.5 wins. Same story for Arizona.

Both Oregon schools have already cleared their hurdles. Oregon’s 9-1 record topped an expectation of 8.5. Oregon State soared past its low market total of 2.5 in its seventh game.

Four propositions are still in play. Utah bettors have locked in a push on over nine thanks to the Utes’ current 9-1 record. Just one more win to cash. It’s a similar story at a much lower target for 4-6 Colorado against a line of four wins. California is 5-5, aiming to top 5.5 wins. Arizona State is 5-5 and has to win out to push its market project of seven wins.

Generally, these propositions are shaded against over bettors. Oddsmakers know the public likes to root for wins. And fans supporting their alma maters almost always bet overs. Pessimistic fans just pass. Sharps look to exploit that by emphasizing unders in their portfolios.


Wondering about the NFL?

Over bets on the Chargers are already a loser (unders a winner), as their 4-7 record prevents them from reaching 10 victories in a 16-game season. Quite a fall for last year’s AFC semifinalists.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff prepares to throw a pass against the Chicago Bears.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff prepares to throw a pass against the Chicago Bears.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The defending NFC champion Rams also went on the board at 10 projected victories. Their 6-4 mark at least gives them a chance to push or cash overs. The Rams must finish 4-2 to push at 10 wins or 5-1 to clear the hurdle.

In the NBA, the Lakers are off to a great start, giving avid fans confidence about topping 50.5 victories. The Clippers were given a higher target of 53.5 victories. The Lakers and Clippers were virtual co-favorites to win the NBA title on the futures board. But many observers thought the Lakers would pace themselves given LeBron James’ recent regular-season history.


Win totals aren’t posted in the NHL. Hockey bettors can take their shots at points earned from victories and regulation ties. The market wasn’t expecting much from the Ducks or the Kings. Sportsbooks posted targets of 79.5 points for Anaheim, 73.5 for Los Angeles.

If you make only occasional trips to Nevada to enjoy legal sports betting, regular season win totals offer a great way to have a stake in your favorite team’s success. You can just root for wins rather than worrying about point spreads.

Other notes

Circa Sports in Las Vegas is the first sportsbook to publicly post the power ratings it uses to determine college football point spreads. USC cracked Circa’s top 25 this week, tied at No. 24 with Central Florida at a rating of 86.75. Others from the Pac-12: No. 7 Utah 99.25, No. 9 Oregon 97 and No. 17 Washington 90.75.

Power ratings are designed to show neutral-field differentials between any two teams. Circa’s top four are Clemson 111.5, Ohio State 110.25, Louisiana State 106.25 and Georgia 104.25. Those suggest Clemson would be a slight favorite over Ohio State in a projected national championship meeting. Either would be favored by more than a field goal over LSU were the games played this week.


Alabama’s rating fell from 106.25 to 101.50 because of the season-ending injury to star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, suggesting he was worth 4.75 points in the line.