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USC football vs. Cal: Betting odds, lines, start time and how to watch

USC quarterback Jaxson Dart passes.
USC quarterback Jaxson Dart passes against BYU on Nov. 27.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The hiring of Lincoln Riley has given USC fans a lot to look forward to, as the former Oklahoma coach already did a good bit of recruiting in Southern California before becoming the new head coach of the Trojans.

The end of an era (or maybe an error?) will commence on Saturday when the Trojans take the field one last time in 2021 for a makeup game against the Cal Golden Bears. The Cal program dealt with a massive COVID outbreak in November and this game was moved to Dec. 4. Effort and motivation are big question marks for both teams.

USC at California (-4, 58), 8 p.m. PST, FS1

With 4-7 records, neither the Trojans nor the Bears have any bowl hopes going into the season finale. This is a game for pride, something that many USC fans would argue the team has been lacking over the last few seasons. If this was a final showcase game for Drake London, then maybe the outlook would be a little bit different, but the star wideout remains sidelined.

Perhaps Riley’s hiring will be a motivating factor for USC. Players will be watched closely by the new head coach, who is likely to bring in players from the transfer portal that fit his system and that could push the current players a little harder to impress in hopes of playing time. It could also provide just the opposite, as the players know that sweeping changes are coming and the coaches that recruited them are unlikely to be retained.

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In some respects, the stats don’t even matter for a game like this. We know the CliffsNotes version anyway. USC has a decent offense and a terrible defense. Cal is a team that usually lives on its defense. The Bears defense does rank in the top 50 in yards per play. USC’s is nowhere near that kind of rank.

USC interim coach Donte Williams is working to keep the Trojans focused on the finale against Cal on Saturday amid buzz about new coach Lincoln Riley.

Interestingly, the Cal offense grades right around the USC offense in yards per play. No offense to Cal, but with USC’s history and the availability of recruits, that is something that should never happen. It speaks to the instability and the missed opportunities for the Trojans over the last few seasons

And, with that in mind, Cal minus-4 is the pick here. The Bears should have some measure of status quo going forward and those players don’t have all of these distractions and extenuating circumstances.

I also lean towards the Over 58 in this game. Games that mean something are often played much tighter than games that don’t. This could look like a 7-on-7 practice session with both offenses chucking the ball around the field.

Pick: Cal -4

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