UCLA Favored by Eight Points Against Struggling Utah
UCLA and Utah have both been surprises in the Pac-12 this season, but for very different reasons. On Saturday, they will hook up in a key conference game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Utah was on the cusp of entering the Top 25 following a season-opening win against Northern Colorado, but due mostly to an ineffective offense they have since fallen off the national radar. The Utes had one quality win (against No. 25 BYU) and one bad loss (to Utah St.) in non-conference play and have since gone 0-2 in the Pac-12. That’s not exactly what was envisioned for the Utes in the preseason.
Meanwhile, UCLA got off to a fast 3-0 start under first-year coach Jim Mora that included a big home upset of Nebraska. According to this week’s college football odds, the Bruins (4-2, 1-2) are 8-point home favorites against the Utes (2-2, 0-2). The over/under is pegged at 52 points.
Utah has struggled to move the ball this season—they rank 102nd in the nation in passing offense and 112th in rushing—while totaling just 299 yards a game. That has been a point of emphasis all week for the Utes.
One wrinkle expected against the Bruins is increased playing time for freshman quarterback Travis Wilson. Wilson led a 63-yard touchdown drive in the Utes 38-28 loss to USC last week and has continued to impress coaches this week at practice. He would take time from starter John Hays.
UCLA will be looking to rebound from perhaps their worst effort of the season to this point—a 43-17 whooping at the hands of California last week. The Bruins offense is led by standout running nack Johnathan Franklin, but it has been hampered recently by the inconsistent play of a young offensive line that features three freshman and a sophomore in its starting five. Last week against Cal the Bruins gave up five sacks. Mora said this week his young team’s lack of depth means there isn’t likely to be any changes in personnel with that unit.
UCLA is 4-2 against the spread this season, but a young squad laying 8 points against a team that was well-regarded early in the season seems a bit risky. Utah is out of the running for a Pac-12 title, but there backs are also against the wall if they want to go to a bowl game this year. That could be just the incentive they need to keep it close against the Bruins.