UCLA Bruins 3-3 SU, 1-5 ATS) vs. Arizona Wildcats (1-5 SU, 2-4 ATS), 9:00 p.m. EST, College Football Week 8, Thursday, October 20, 2011, Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona, TV: ESPN
by Scotty L, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: University of Southern California Los Angeles +3/University of Arizona -3
Over/Under Total: OFF
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The UCLA Bruins travel to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night in a Pac-12 matchup. Neither team is exactly cooking right now, but coming off a bye-week, each squad has been spending time ironing out the kinks. For the Wildcats, the situation is made a bit more difficult with the bye-week firing of head coach Mike Stoops.
The mid-season dismissal speaks volumes of the failure of a program that held so much promise merely a few years ago. With a game-one win over Northern Arizona, the Wildcats have not beaten a Division I team in nearly a year. Coincidentally, the last Division I team they beat was UCLA. But it has been a rocky road since then. They now sit at 1-5 with 5 straight defeats—the only cover being a 48-41 loss at USC as 12-point dogs.
UCLA isn’t exactly paying off this season either, with one cover in 6 games. At 3-3, however, they face a rosier picture than Arizona. They are without starting quarterback Richard Brehaut, paving the way for the return of Kevin Prince, the Bruins’ starter from two seasons ago. Prince was known for an exciting, though somewhat reckless style, which led to a string of injuries. He is now healthy and despite not having played much recently, he is an experienced QB who receives a lot of respect from teammates. He won’t be able to win it himself, but the Bruins are lucky to have him now.
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Teams have been beating up on the Arizona defense this year. They give up an average of 300 yards in the air and 200 on the ground per game. Strangely, their coordinator Tim Kish is now the head coach, with Stoops being shown the door. Mr. Kish is certainly a knowledgeable football coach, but it’s going to take a major change of form to turn this around. Maybe a new voice at the top will help.
It’s difficult to fathom how a team with a quarterback who has 2250 yards throwing through 6 games can only post such a record. But not even QB Nick Foles can bail them out when the Arizona defense is playing so ineptly. In addition, the offense lacks meaningful balance, with their leading rusher managing only 295 yards so far. Having the nation’s third-best passing offense has been of little help. They’ve been dangerous, but the defense has let them down every time.
Arizona mixing up the coaching staff and being at home after a bye-week could breathe some life into their sagging sails. Then again, they gave up a combined 93 points in their last two home games. Those two teams were the higher-powered Stanford and Oregon, however, so maybe they can keep a Bruins offense more in check—especially with their QB issues. If so, this is a track meet in which they can compete.
UCLA QB Kevin Prince will need to be smart. He’s already thrown 4 picks in only 23 attempts this season and has a flair for flying a little too close the flame. He uses his legs a lot, but leaves himself open for bad hits. It’s imperative for him to remain prudent, particularly with only an unproven freshman behind him in the QB rotation.
The Bruins were aided by this bye-week, allowing some players to lick their wounds so they can come out swinging for the second half of the season. Prince will be able to rely on some playmakers, who should romp against a borderline-slapstick Wildcats “D.” UCLA has a nice little 1-2 punch coming out of the backfield with Jonathan Franklin (509 yards) and Derrick Coleman (6 touchdowns). Prince also has a talented, though top-heavy receiving crew to rely upon.
Scotty L’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: For UCLA, they need a win to get this season going in the right direction—to emerge a bit from mediocrity. Arizona is just trying to prevent their team from sinking into the abyss. Don’t expect the Wildcats to roll over, however. Both teams should play hard and close to their peaks. If that’s the case, look for the more balanced attack of the Bruins to create some separation late. Bet the UCLA Bruins plus the points.
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