California Golden Bears (5-6 SU, 7-4 ATS) vs. UCLA Bruins (5-6 SU, 4-7 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date/Time: Friday, November 24, 2017 at 10:30PM EST
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CAL +7.5/UCLA -7.5
Over/Under Total: 64
On Friday, the Cal Golden Bears make the trip south to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in a regular season-closing Pac-12 matchup with the UCLA Bruins. On Saturday, neither team was victorious, though both covered the spread in close losses. The Golden Bears fell to Stanford in a 17-14 squeaker that sent them to 5-6. UCLA also fell to 5-6 on Saturday in a 28-23 loss to their cross-town rival USC Trojans. At stake is a definite bowl spot and a .500 record. In 2016, almost exactly a year ago, the Golden Bears beat the Bruins, 35-10. One should expect a more-competitive encounter this time around.
The Bruins came up short against the Trojans on Saturday, but acquitted themselves well. They probably should have managed more than 23 points against USC considering how much production they had offensively, especially riding the arm of Josh Rosen, who had a huge game. And their defense avoided being run-over by a peaking Trojans offense. Theyve flexed a good offense this offense, while being betrayed by a defense that has been exploited by most conference opponents they have faced. Still, UCLA has shown that at home, they are pretty tough. They have not lost at the Rose Bowl this season, with all six of their defeats coming on the road. With wins at home over Colorado, Oregon, and Utah, they have shown that beating this level of opponent at home this season is something they are more than up for pulling off.
Rosen put up a fat 421 yards aerially on Saturday, connecting on three touchdowns. His main target in recent weeks has been Jordan Lasley, who caught 10 passes for 204 yards and three scores. They got major contributions from ball-catchers Austin Roberts and Theo Howard. Theyve also seen their run-game offer more production toward the end of the season, with good lay in spots from Soso Jamabo and Bolo Olorunfunmi. On Saturday, both had some useful runs. Rosens interception and lost fumble were key, as were some untimely penalties, one of which resulted in a TD being called back. With 501 yards, though, 23 in a pretty low point-output and a little more would have turned the trick.
Throughout the season, the defense has let the UCLA team down, taking wins and turning them into losses with what has been a comical run-defense. That was a big reason USC seemed to have some wagering appeal last week. It was hard to not lick your chops at the prospect of a peaking Ronald Jones and the USC ground-game running roughshod over a UCLA run D that has given up nearly 300 yards a game this season. So, holding Jones and Company to a less than 4 yards a carry on a manageable 153 yards was a nice development for the Bruins. And the USC aerial attack wasnt that vital, either. But they made fewer mistakes and made more of what they had. Still, UCLA held USC to 14 points in the final three quarters, which counts as a nice showing for this side of the ball.
Cal saw their offense let them down in a close game against Stanford on Saturday. Its not often over the past handful of seasons where you could say that, but this season has seen a shift in philosophy for the Golden Bears. Rather than an all-offense and no-defense squad, we are seeing a move to a more-balanced and sustainable approach this season. It hasnt yielded great results perhaps, but they are headed in the right direction. Against Stanford, Cal narrowed it to 17-14 in the third quarter and while their D tightened up and didnt allow any more points, the offense couldnt manage a late score.
On Saturday, the Golden Bears managed only 14 points against a good Stanford defense. Ross Bowers lacks the big arm his predecessors possessed. He had no touchdowns on Saturday, while throwing a pick. He did connect well with Vic Wharton and Jordan Veasy, as well as running back Patrick Laird. On the ground, Laird was big with 153 yards with a score. They have stepped up on a few occasions this season to put up a lot of points, including in a bizarre 37-3 win over Washington State. And while the UCLA defense played decently on Saturday, this is a spot where the Cal offense can maybe do some damage.
The Cal D has a ways to go before being even a top-half conference defense. But for those who saw them the last several seasons, they deserve credit for being more-respectable in 2017. The 3 points they gave up to WSU was a bonanza for this unit. Over the last two weeks, they have been fairly resolute and look to be getting better even with some things working against them, namely the loss of the defenses best player Devante Downs. Linebacker is one area they have some strength and depth, with Raymond Davison and Jordan Kunaszyk making a lot of plays. Against a version of Josh Rosen that is starting to put together some big games, well see what they come up with this week. The 10-point allowance yielded to the Bruins in last seasons matchup between these two teams was when UCLA was without Rosen. That number will go up on Saturday.
A few things stand out about this matchup. Cal has not beaten a conference team on the road this season and their only road win of the season came in week one at North Carolina. Meanwhile, the Bruins are unbeaten at home this season. The UCLA defense is a definite concern and even a Cal offense that has been flat a lot this season could do damage against this group. I think the X-factor is Josh Rosen, who is looking to forge a memorable final collegiate impression before entering the draft. That alone doesnt win games necessarily, but I see the Bruins offense allowing UCLA to win a footrace at home.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on UCLA -7.5 to continue their recent strong play. Not all sportsbooks are created equal! Many are fly by night, poorly run and your loot is actually at risk. End that problem today by signing up at one of the web’s oldest and most trusted sportsbooks! Online for over 15 years, your credit card will work and you’ll also receive a 50% bonus up to $250 FREE at Bovada Sportsbook!