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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:54 PM

Saturday's Best Bets

Earlier this week it was another split with these plays, as Florida had no issues cruising to a road victory over Texas A&M, while Iowa State decided to no-show the final 20 minutes to get blown out by the Sooners.

Hopefully that's not the case with the two teams that are on the card for tonight's action, as it's out to the Pac-12 Conference for both selections.

Washington State at USC (Pac-12, 8:00 p.m. ET)

Best Bet #1: USC -7

The Trojans may be 1-3 SU in their last four games overall, but they do enter tonight's action on a 3-0 ATS run after some close losses in the state of Arizona last week stayed within the number. They followed those up with a hard-fought 62-56 win over Washington earlier in the week, and now host Washington State tonight. A “get right” win like that can easily propel the Trojans down the stretch, as after tonight's game there really aren't any “easy” games left for USC.
 
But this contest vs the Cougars could qualify as one, as Washington State has had some really bad losses on the road this year. Furthermore, they are coming off a great effort vs UCLA on Thursday where they fell in OT to the Bruins, a game Washington State could have easily won. To some, that may suggest that the Cougars have figured a few things out on the road, but to me, I view it as a one-off type performance, and after their previous three road games ended with losses by 12, 22, and 26 points, I've got a hard time believing Washington State has back-to-back great road efforts in them.
 
Those road woes for the Cougars program haven't just been the past month or so either. They are currently on a 8-21 ATS run as road underdogs overall, and with a 7-21 ATS in their last 28 road games against a team with a winning record at home, it's a systematic issue within the program that's yet to get fixed. That is very concerning and something I can only look to fade.
 
Yet, when you take a peek at the betting percentage numbers offered up at VegasInsider.com, you'll see that I'm definitely in the minority with that view. Currently bettors are taking the points with the Cougars at a 75%+ clip and oddly enough that does make me like this play even more. Seemingly everyone is expecting another strong road effort for Washington State this week, when everything they've shown you in that scenario the past couple of years suggests otherwise. Fine by me, as I've got no problem going up against the public underdog here.

Washington at UCLA (ESPN2, 10:00 p.m. ET)

Best Bet #2: UCLA -3.5

Might as well keep it all in the city of LA for today's action, as this line feels awfully short for UCLA tonight.
 
The Bruins didn't look great at all basically playing even with Washington State the entire game on Thursday as -8 home chalk, and that contest appears to be one most of the market tuned into given all the Washington State love today as well.
 
But the Bruins still found a way to win that contest outright in the end, and have now won four of five entering this game with an ice cold Washington team. The Huskies have dropped seven in a row – SU and ATS – as they've yet to recover from blowing that big lead at home to Oregon about a month ago. That 64-61 loss in OT, where Washington led by 12 at the half, was followed by a just as crushing one-point loss at Utah and things have spiralled out of control since then. Three of the last four games for Washington have seen them close with a spread of +/- 2, and they've fallen by 3, 12, and 6 points respectively. Tough to have any confidence late in close games when those types of losses continue to happen, and it gets to ta point where the Huskies are probably starting to expect things to go wrong for them late in games.
 
Which brings me back to UCLA, a team that knows they need a much better effort from start to finish tonight, especially on the defensive side of things. Allowing 80+ points is not a routine thing to do for this program any more with Mick Cronin at the helm, and even though that number was as high as it was thanks to extra time, UCLA is 2-0 SU and ATS in conference play in games following an effort where they did allow 80+.
 
Finally, I know some will look at the first meeting between these two just after New Year's and see UCLA winning 66-64 as +8.5 road dogs and see this line as too severe of an over-adjustment and want to take the points. There definitely some merit in that approach to a degree, but you've also got to consider that UCLA won that game shooting just 39% from the floor – were bailed out by their 3-pt shooting – and that things have gone in much different directions for both programs since then.
 
I'll ride with the hotter hand in UCLA, as the Bruins are on a 7-2 ATS run in their last nine against a losing team, while Washington's run a goose egg against the spread in their last six contests away from home. The large point spread difference from the first meeting to now is warranted in my view, and given the recent form of both teams, I would have made the spread a possession or so higher.

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