USC Trojans vs. Cal Bears: Betting Odds Preview, Matchup Stats and Pick ColumnistSeptember 21, 2012

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans reacts after throwing an interception during their game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The USC Trojans had national championship aspirations for this season, but those hopes took a severe hit in the same spot as in years past - Stanford.

Now the Trojans look to pick up the pieces when they host the 1-2 Cal Bears for a Pac-12 scrum Saturday at the Coliseum (6 pm ET, Pac-12 Network).

Predictably, oddsmakers set a huge point spread and just as predictably, the betting public threw their money behind Southern Cal, hoping for a huge rebound effort.

Will USC bounce back and reinsert itself into college football's big picture? Or can Cal put an end to the Trojans' BCS hopes for 2012?

Historically, USC beats up on the Bears and covers the spread, too. In seven recent matchups, the Trojans are 6-1 ATS, according to the USC-Cal matchup report. But Cal played a tough game a week ago at Ohio State, so they should be ready for USC.

Southern Cal returned 16 starters this season, including nine on offense, from a team that went 10-2 last year. The Trojans began this season with a 49-10 victory over Hawaii, then beat Syracuse in New Jersey 42-29.

But last Saturday, USC fell victim to a team that has had its number over recent seasons, the Stanford Cardinal, losing 21-14 up on the Farm. The Trojans led 14-7 at the half, but got shut out in the second half.

On the night, the supposedly potent USC offense, playing without injured center Khaled Holmes, was held to 280 total yards of offense, and just 26 yards rushing.

With the loss, the Trojans dropped from No. 2 in the AP poll all the way to No. 13.

Holmes' status for Saturday's game is still uncertain.

Cal, meanwhile, with just 11 starters back from a team that went 7-6 last year, opened its season with a 31-24 loss to Nevada. The Bears then defeated Southern Utah (FCS) 50-31, and last Saturday put on a very good showing, albeit in a 35-28 loss at Ohio State.

The Bears went off as 17-point underdogs vs. the Buckeyes, but led 21-20 early in the fourth quarter before giving way. On the day, Cal outgained OSU 512-412, but missed three field goals.

USC has beaten Cal eight straight times. Last year the Trojans beat the Bears 30-9, covering the spread as three-point favorites up in Berkeley.

With Matt Barkley at QB, Southern Cal is 3-0 vs. Cal, winning those three games by an average score of 36-9. His Heisman Trophy odds also fell with the loss and a sub-par effort against the Cardinal.

Earlier this week USC opened as a 16-point favorite over Cal for Saturday's game, with a total of 57. As of Thursday afternoon, the Trojans had been bumped to -16.5, and the total boosted to 58.5 or 59 at some CFB betting outlets.

Free Pick: Cal put on a great effort last week at Ohio State, while USC got stymied at Stanford. We expect a reversal of those performances this week, so we'll give the points and take the Trojans. (courtesy of