UCLA Bruins vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Week 1 Pick
UCLA Bruins (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Thursday, August 29, 2019 at 7PM EST
Where: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Point Spread: UCLA +3/CIN -3 (WagerWeb)
Over/Under Total: 60.5
The UCLA Bruins come to Nippert Stadium on Thursday to face the Cincinnati Bearcats in a week one matchup to kick off both school’s college football season. Last season, both teams also began the season with this very matchup—the first-ever between these two programs. In LA, the Bearcats started a successful season by beating the Bruins, 26-17. The Bearcats would go on to a very nice 11-2 season, which included a bowl-game win over Virginia Tech. Coach Luke Fickell has this team pointed in the right direction and will look for another successful campaign. They get this game at home and look for a strong start to the season.
There were a lot of growing pains for the Bruins last season, as a once-formidable football program continues to struggle. They were 3-9 last season, but with all three wins in conference, including a win over USC, there were some decent signs in Chip Kelly’s return to the college ranks. Cincy spoiled his return last season, and he looks to make amends this time around on the road. With another year of recruiting under his belt and a projected upturn in some youth, the Bruins could see a little spike this season. With Cincinnati next having to face Ohio State and Miami, with UCLA next facing San Diego State and Oklahoma State, it makes this game an important starting-point for both squads.
The UCLA offense never really got going in this matchup last season. Though they were at home, they were up against it, first with a better-than-projected Cincinnati team, along with an abundance of youth still finding their way. True freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was seeing his first college action and doing so behind a truly deficient and painfully-young offensive line. Running back Joshua Kelley couldn’t get started, and they came up short. Entering this season, they have more experience behind center, assuming the projected starter DTR gets the nod. He has a growing force in the backfield in Kelley, who could be in store for a nice season. And that young line is back a year older with some incoming horses who could do damage. Add in a deep receiving crew, and one should forecast Chip Kelly getting more of this group this season.
Even as UCLA improved toward the end of last season, consistency in any form proved to be elusive. Kelly was coming into a situation where he didn’t have a lot of horses that he himself hand-picked. A single year doesn’t completely change that, but I think one could expect to see a more consistent and competent football product on the field this season. While a good season or even a year where they emerge bowl-eligible could be out-of-reach, the ceiling is higher, and we’ll see what they can come up with for week one. Defense remains a major issue, however, and unless that improves majorly, they will only go so far. After losing two of their top secondary members from a group that wasn’t very good, we’ll see what they can piece together around a good corner in Darnay Holmes. And with no top run-stoppers looking to come to UCLA, it’s been a problem area for years and against Cincy that could resonate badly.
Cincinnati used their run-game to good effect last season against the Bruins. UCLA has some size up-front, but a lot of teams ran well against them last season, and not all of those teams were particularly adept at running the ball typically. Cincinnati wields a powerful and impactful back in Michael Warren, II., who looks to open strongly with good depth behind him to give the Bruins’ “D” a different look. Sophomore Desmond Ridder returns behind center and could have a big season. There are a lot of guys in the trenches who were a big part of Cincinnati going from 4 wins in ’17 to 11 wins last season. Add two returning starting receivers, and the Cincinnati offense should be in good hands.
The Cincinnati defense returns eight starters, a lot of the same unit that held UCLA to a scant 17 points last season and just over 300 yards of total offense. They should find this season’s matchup to be more challenging, but Cincinnati’s defense could also be better. They have solid playmaking, including safety James Wiggins, who picked off four passes last season, three of them helping cinch up wins. While the Bearcats’ “D” could end proving to be one of the top defenses in the AAC, this could be a tough entrance exam, coming against a Chip Kelly offense that is in a better position to hit the ground running than they were to open the season last year.
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UCLA at Cincinnati Prediction ATS 8/29/19
Cincinnati enjoys a nice home-field edge playing at Nippert Stadium. A lot of the UCLA roster will be in unchartered territory playing in the Midwest, against an 11-win team from last season, to boot. Usually, when an 11-win team faces a 3-win team that they beat on the road, a home matchup between the same two teams would seem to be a slam-dunk. But I think the optimism surrounding Kelly’s Bruins in his second season at the helm is well-placed. I see a second-half surge for the Bruins having them squarely in this game. Whether they can stop the run remains to be seen, but Cincinnati has a lot of new horses up-front too. Without a lot going for them, UCLA still was somewhat in last season’s game, and I think the conditions have shifted adequately to make the Bruins a decent pick here getting points. I’ll take UCLA.
Loot’s Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the UCLA Bruins plus 3 points and after taking advantage of the $1000 bonus at BetNow laying my action there.
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