UCLA Bruins (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) vs. BYU Cougars (1-1 SU, 2-0 ATS)
College Football Week3
Date/Time: Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 10:15PM EST
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UCLA -3.5/BYU +3.5
Over/Under Total: 49
The UCLA Bruins come to Provo to take on the BYU Cougars in big week three late-game action. Each team is 1-1 and looking to get on a run. BYU has continued their dramatic tendencies of last year, with two down-to-the-wire endings this season. They won the first one in a last-minute win over Arizona in week one, followed by near-miss against Utah last week after putting themselves in position to win with a late TD. A failed two led to a painful 20-19 loss. UCLA got on the right track last week with a routine 42-21 win over UNLV and are still looking to make up for their heartbreaking overtime loss to Texas A&M in week one. Its a really big game for both teams.
UCLA should really be 2-0. That week one loss was a bad one, as they came all the way back to tie A&M to get the game to overtime, only to see a few errors cost them the win. They were able to put some distance between them and that game with the week two win over UNLV. Some key playmakers made their presence known on both sides of the ball. Running back Soso Jamabo ran for three TD scores and star corner Randall Goforth picked off two passes.
The shining star of UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen may have blinded some from whats really going on with this offense. They lost a ton of pieces across all phases other than QB, losing a star back, their top aerial targets, and a few key pieces on the line. In addition, theyre trying to work in a new system with a new offensive coordinator. Its more of a pro-style, with the personnel perhaps not the best fit. And weve seen a bit of that this season, though the offense does appear to be getting better with each passing quarter.
The UCLA defense was seen as the strength of this team, with a slew of returning starters and guys back from injuries, along with some compelling youngsters in the mix. After a really rough first half against A&M, they tightened considerably to allow the offense to stage the improbable comeback. They werent exactly a shut-down unit against UNLV, but that was against an improved team where they had the game under control. They match up decently with the Cougars in this game and this should be a good measuring stick to see where they stand.
Brigham Young has a knack for dramatic games that come down to the very end. They did it last year time and again and this season is unfolding in a similar way. The game against Utah was an ugly one, with turnovers-galore and a lot of miscues on both sides. Through all the issues, the BYU D was impressive, forcing 6 turnovers and holding the Utes to just 13 points of offense. The Cougars defense has opened the season against two Pac-12 teams and allowed just 36 points in those gamesa very respectable total.
The issue for the Cougars has been the offense. With a wealth at QB and a good tailback in Jamaal Williams back in the fold after a season plagues with injuries, there are some good pieces in place. But after losing a bulk of their aerial production, they need to find some new options and they do have some interesting big-body receivers who should manifest at some point. Taysom Hill, who returned from injury this season and beat out replacement Tanner Mangum in preseason for the starting QB gig, was picked off thrice against Utah, though he did score twice with his lively legs. The offense just looked flat, without the aerial flair they had last season.
Going for two was a risky move, as it can be extra painful to manage a last-minute TD drive, only to see it all be for naught, though it did help BYU backers cover the spread. It just made it a very painful loss. When you force a team to turn over a ball 6 times and you dont win, thats a bad deal. And to manage just 19 points scoring amidst those conditions is also a major letdown. For nearly 4 quarters of play with their opponents unable to hang on to the ball. The Cougars could manage just one trip into the red-zone.
The Cougars still have depth at QB if one of them struggles and we might see Tanner Mangum at some point here soon if Hill continues to labor. Williams made some strides in week one with 162 yards, though he was kept quiet with the rest of the offense on Saturday against what we need to remember is a really good Utah home defense. Still, one should expect better returns this week at home against UCLA. How much better is really the key issue.
Last season featured a really close game between these two teams, with the Bruins managing a late scoring drive to notch the one-point win at the Rose Bowl. Again, BYU couldnt win despite a good showing from the defense, which forced three picks from Josh Rosen, who was a putrid 11-for-23 with just 106 yards. Sometimes, the offense doesnt cooperate for the Cougars. Still, as better than a field goal dogs in this spot, this has the look of a toss-up game in Provo on Saturday. In cases like those, Im inclined to take the points. Im going with the Cougars.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the BYU Cougars plus 3.5 points.
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