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USC vs. Cal Football Thursday Night Football Prediction

10/13/11

The California Golden Bears make their 2nd appearance in a row, this time at home, on Thursday Night Football and hope things turn out a little better this week against USC, than they did last week on the road at Oregon. Cal actually led the Ducks 15-14 at the half but Oregon proved to be too much scoring 29 unanswered points in the 2nd half for a 43-15 final. This week, Cal finds themselves listed as 3 point home underdogs to the Trojans.

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There's not much to like about either of these teams as far as the national picture is concerned. It looked as though perhaps the USC win over Utah was a "good win" but look what Utah has done the last two weeks. They lost 31-14 to Washington and 35-14 to Arizona State. Arizona State also pounded USC 43-22, USC's only true step up in class. Yeah, USC is 4-1 (2-1 in conference) but on the horizon is Notre Dame, Stanford and Oregon. We shall see.

Not much to write home about for Cal either. They are 3-2 on the year and 0-2 in conference. Fresno, Colorado and Presbyterian are their wins and now they have dropped two in a row, first to Washington and last week to Oregon.

USC has had Cal's number. They have beaten them 7 straight and have won 8 of the last 9 games at Cal. Last year they beat Cal like a drum to the tune of 48-14, not even close. Maybe the fact that this years game is at AT&T Park, while their building is under construction, will help the Bears.

We frequently talk about taking advantage of a team that has had your number when they are down a notch. That would certainly apply here if you're Cal. If not now, when? USC is far from the monster they used to be and you're still getting some value in the line as a result. USC will always bring in public money. This week, early at least, most of the action has been on USC despite the line moving the other way, always a good indication of sharp money (on Cal)

When we look at the yards per point numbers here we see a 13 for Cal on offense compared to a 15 for USC, edge to Cal by 2 points. Defensively we see USC with close to 15 while Cal is a poor 13, edge to USC by 2 points. USC has played a schedule only slightly more difficult than Cal's, perhaps by 2 points or so, but then factor in a couple points for the temporary home field edge at AT&T Park and that makes this game pretty much a coin flip using the ypp method of making a line.

We mentioned our score prediction model sweeping the board last week with underdogs it liked to win outright, in our write up on the SD State at Air Force game. Well, this game fits the bill as well. Our model likes Cal to win this one by a score of 35-30, suggesting that not only is Cal plus the points a good play, but so too is the over 55.

Big game for Cal as far as the PAC 12 standings go as they can't afford to fall further behind the leaders. They have revenge multiplied by 7, and they are looking to bounce back from the embarrassment of a week ago on Thursday night. We really don't feel there's much difference between these two so we'll go ahead and take the points in what looks like a good spot for Cal.  California +3

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