UNLV Rebels at UCLA Bruins (-25.5)
Week 1 of the college football season provided no shortage of excitement. A few contenders already bid adieu to their playoff hopes (see LSU), while others grabbed our attention as potential challengers (see Houston). Amazingly, seven top-25 teams lost, including two of the top-five and four of the top-11 (Oklahoma, LSU, Notre Dame, and Ole Miss).
UCLA (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS), which started the year ranked no. 16, was also dealt a crushing blow, losing to Texas A&M in an OT thriller. Now the Bruins find themselves in desperate need of a bounce-back performance when they host the UNLV Rebels (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) on Saturday night (8:00 PM ET) at the Rose Bowl.
The Rebels got their season started off the right way with a 63-13 romp over the Jackson State Tigers, covering as 39-point favorites. The difference between FBS and FCS talent was on full display all night. UNLV’s rushing attack was simply too much for the Tigers to handle, gashing them for 280 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. When the Rebels chose to pass, the Tigers offered little resistance again. Johnny Stanton went 10/12 for 217 yards and three touchdowns. His primary weapon, Devonte Boyd, was unstoppable, catching four balls for 135 yards and three touchdowns.
UNLV’s defense also joined in on the fun, adding two touchdowns of their own in the fourth quarter and forcing three turnovers on the day.
However, the team the Rebels will face in Week 2 is no Jackson State. Instead, they’ll be heading to California to take on the desperate Bruins, who are fresh off a 31-24 upset at the hands of the formerly unranked Aggies.
The Pac-12 South favorites found themselves down 24-9 in Week 1 before Josh Rosen (26/46, 343 yards, one TD, three INTs) finally woke up and began mounting the comeback. UCLA would tie the game with less than three minutes to go on a 62-yard touchdown pass from Rosen to Kenneth Walker III (six receptions, 115 yards, one TD). However, A&M would not let the Heisman-hopeful complete the comeback, using overtime to take down the Bruins.
UCLA lost due to the turnovers and a porous run defense, which gave up 203 rushing yards and 5.0 yards per carry. Playing without starting running back Nate Starks (discipline) didn’t help their own ground game, only mustering 3.1 yards per carry. Head coach Jim Mora has disclosed that Starks’ status for Week 2 is still undecided.
The massive spread should be enough to suggest that these two teams are not even close in terms of talent. UCLA won’t need Starks in the backfield to run all over this UNLV defense, and Josh Rosen will be able to pad his stats and re-enter the Heisman watch.
It should also be noted that UCLA is 6-2 ATS in their last eight games following an ATS loss, and are also 4-1 ATS in their last five games against the Mountain West Conference. UNLV is 0-4 ATS in their last four as an underdog.
UCLA will be pissed off about their Week 1 setback and plummet down the rankings (make that out of the rankings). Don’t expect any let up, as they’ll need the extra tune-up for their game against no. 7 Stanford in Week 4.
Pick: Bruins (-25.5).
Photo Credit: Eric Chan, CC BY 2.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.