UCLA Bruins (3-5 SU, 2-6 ATS) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (6-2 SU, 8-0 ATS)
College Football Week 10
Date/Time: Thursday, November 3, 2016 at 9PM EST
Where: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colorado
TV: Fox Sports 1
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UCLA +11.5/COLO -11.5
Over/Under Total: 53.5
In Thursday Pac-12 action, the UCLA Bruins come into Boulder to face the Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffaloes are in the midst of a renaissance season, of sorts, having won 6 of 8 games and covering all their spreads this season. They are coming off a 10-5 road win over Stanford and a team that used to struggle to buy a win in this conference is putting up some head-turning results. UCLA, however, is in trouble at 1-4 in conference on the heels of three straight defeats. Can they get it on the right track this week? Or will the Buffaloes continue building on what has been a big season thus far?
We see Colorado overachieving and getting the most of what they have. We donít see much of that with the Bruins this season. Before the campaign, a lot of people expressed optimism with the Bruins and maybe some of it was misplaced. A lot of people were focused on the continued growth of rising QB Josh Rosen, even as the rest of the team was dealing with major voids to fill. And now Rosen is out, with Mike Fafaul taking over and the Bruins are now just trying to hang on for their livesónot exactly what their supporters had in mind.
It started OK for the Bruins, even as they lost to a good A&M team on the road. They probably should have won that game, as mistakes on OT cost them a chance at a win. Two wins later, including a big road win over BYU, suggested the Bruins were still in the mix. A home loss to Stanford was somehow forgivable and they followed that with a win over Arizona. They were then battered on the road in two straight defeats to Arizona State and Washington State. In their last game, they fell at home, 52-45, to the Utah Utes.
On one hand, the losses suffered by the Bruins werenít lopsided ones. And putting up 45 against the Utah defense is a small victory, especially as they turned the ball over so many times. Fafaul went for 464 yards through the air with five TD strikes. But in a close game, the 4 picks he threw were critical. In his last two games, he has thrown six, but weíre still seeing an offensive surge. If only they could reduce the mistakes, they could start to put some things together.
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The UCLA offense is certainly a different unit from last season. The line is not as good. And they can barely run the ball after being able to rely on Paul Perkins in recent seasons. Theyíre averaging under 3 yards a run and it makes it so taking to the air is the only option for this offense. With Darren Andrews, Kenneth Walker, Nate Iese, Jordan Lasley, and others, they certainly have ample weaponry through the air. But itís a pretty average group without a substantive run-game. And with a defense that struggles to make an impact, weíre left with a UCLA team that is pretty humdrum.
Contrast that to Colorado and the picture is even bleaker for the Bruins. Colorado has been a revelation of sorts in 2016, with big wins and all covers. They lost a close one on the road to USC, also falling on the road to Michigan after giving them a run for their money. Again, itís been hard for the Buffaloes since joining the Pac-12 and now we see them winning on the road against Stanford and Oregon and itís hard to really acknowledge it all properly. Head coach Mike MacIntyre has whipped this squad into shape.
Getting quarterback Sefo Liufau back in action after he missed some time has been good for the Colorado offense. The senior is finally seeing things come together after massively struggling to make things happen for several seasons. He is a clutch performer with poise and polish. He has yet to throw an interception this season, while adding a lot with his legs. He helps a run-game that is led by impactful running back Phillip Lindsay. He has 10 touchdowns this season and is bolstered by the big runs of Kyle Evans. Aerially, the attack is led by Devin Ross, Shay Fields, and Bryce Bobo, as the three have 13 touchdown grabs on the season.
Making it all come together for the Buffaloes is a defense that has made measurable gains this season. The nationís 10th ranked overall defense is allowing just 18 points per game, not bad considering the teams they are facing. They also get after it, with 18 turnovers and a strong pass-rush. Giving up 5 points even to a struggling Stanford offense on the road counts as a victory. The ďDĒ is showing a lot of spirit and the ability to create clutch plays.
Not to belabor the point, but Coloradoís path to this spot was not an easy one. Sometimes, that can make a team appreciate things more and therefore, make it more difficult to separate them from their good momentum. Between the coaches and players, getting into this position was a huge effort with massive work being put in on a year-round basis. It will be interesting to see if they can follow through on a really good season. UCLA is dangerous if nothing else and Colorado can ill-afford a slip-up at this point.
This is a game where some people could expect a Colorado misstep, combined with a possible resurrection of UCLA. It just reeks of a strange game at this point in the season with this combination of opponents. UCLA beat the Buffaloes last season by 4, but a lot has changed since that game, though Liufau did go over 300 through the air in that matchup. In any event, UCLA is struggling and this might not be the best spot for them to spring to life. With the big number and the recent aerial fireworks, I see the Bruins being able to stay somewhat in range.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the UCLA Bruins plus 11.5 points.
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