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This game wasn’t expected to be entertaining going into the season, but that’s taken somewhat of a turn in the last few weeks. While both teams are undefeated, USC has been up-and-down and that’s led to some questions about how good the Trojans actually are. Still, they were decent-sized -16.5 point road favorites early in the week for the game at Cal (as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook).

The Golden Bears have surprised a lot of people already with three wins after five total last season. A win over UNC out east wasn’t expected and then they turned it up a notch to knock off Ole Miss last week as a 7-point home dog. As for the Trojans, they remain a mystery, from struggling to get past Western Michigan in the opener, to handling Stanford to needing double OT to beat Texas. Needless to say, they’ve been a hard team to bet on and that will probably be the case here.

USC had no problems in this game last year in a 45-24 win as Sam Darnold tossed five touchdowns and the running backs ran for a ridiculous 398 yards on 8.3 yards per carry. Betting Cal in this game will require bettors to think that the first few games aren’t a mirage and that this team has actually improved. If so, the Trojans shouldn’t be able to run as well and Darnold will continue throwing interceptions (already has six). Cal looked great against Ole Miss and held a potent UNC offense mostly in check so now it’s time to stop USC.

The Trojans will look to build a lead form the running game once again between Ronald Jones II (322 yards, 5 TDs) and Stephen Carr (216 yards, 2 TDs). If they can produce anywhere close to last year’s numbers, this game will be easy to cover. But something hasn’t looked right for the Trojans and some of that can be attributed to Darnold, who has thrown two picks in each game.

The defense has also been a sieve for USC and that should work into Cal’s favor, especially given how their running game has looked so far. Patrick Laird (278 yards, 4 TDs) has been great and it can’t be ignored that him and Vic Enwere combined for 153 rushing yards against a solid Ole Miss defense last week. USC has had trouble stopping the ground game and using Laird and Enwere is a good route for the Golden Bears to take. If that works, that means less time on the field for Darnold and Jones and that can only mean good things. Quarterback Ross Bowers still has some work to do, but this offense is built to throw the ball so getting a late backdoor cover isn’t off the table either for Cal.

If USC plays like it did in the Stanford win, then the Trojans should have no trouble here. But in their first true road game against a team that’s feeling plenty good about itself, USC will be a tricky team to back with the Golden Bears thinking upset. It was only a year ago that Cal took down Texas 50-43 so they know they have what it takes to win, or at least compete in this game.

Our Pick - USC was favored by a similar margin a week ago and almost lost straight up at home. A year ago, USC won this game, at home by 21 but the previous two in this series were decided by 6 and 8. Cal is 3-0 and looking for revenge. They may not get it, but they should put up a fight. Cal +17.5

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