(18) UCLA Bruins at (15) Stanford Cardinal (-5, 54 o/u)
The no. 18 UCLA Bruins (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) had a chance to establish themselves as top dogs in the Pac-12 last week. Instead, they laid an egg against Arizona State (38-23), falling a game behind Utah in the South Division standings in the process. A two-game slide could be on the horizon as the Bruins now have to travel to Palo Alto to face the no. 15 Stanford Cardinal (4-1, 3-0 Pac-12) at Stanford Stadium tonight (10:30 PM Eastern).
UCLA allowed 465 total yards against the Sun Devils last week, almost 100 yards above their season average (382). Concerningly, that included 192 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against a very mediocre Sun Devil run game (which sits 59th in the country).
Meanwhile, freshman QB Josh Rosen – who has been better than expected in his first year of action – had arguably his worst game of the season, completing just 55-percent of his passes while also throwing a pick (his fifth of the year).
Against a stout Stanford defense, look for coach Jim Mora to lean a little more on his team’s strong ground game, taking some pressure of his young pivot (who had 40 pass attempts against Arizona State). UCLA is currently 34th in the nation in rushing, putting up a shade of 200 yards per game.
How Mora plans to staunch the Stanford offense is a bit of a question mark, though. The Cardinal are even better on the ground than the Bruins, averaging nearly 210 yards per game, and UCLA showed last week that their front-seven is vulnerable.
The silver lining is that the Bruins know exactly what’s coming.
“They don’t hide anything. They are going to line up and run the ball on first and second down, try to get in manageable situations,” said UCLA outside linebacker Deon Hollins. “They have had a lot of success with it. They are really good at what they do, so we just have to be a little bit better.”
Since a season-opening loss to Northwestern, the Cardinal have reeled off four straight wins, including a 55-17 blowout over Arizona last week. The team is also 4-0 against the spread in that span. The Bruins, on the other hand, fell to 3-2 ATS on the year with their setback against Arizona State (they also failed to cover against BYU) and are 1-6 ATS in their last seven against Stanford.
The five-point line isn’t enough to scare me away from those trends and the Cardinal. Take Stanford to hand UCLA another ATS loss.
Pick: Stanford (-5).
(Photo credit: Neon Tommy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)