UCLA Bruins vs. Stanford Cardinal Pick 10/17/19
UCLA Bruins (1-5 SU, 1-4-1 ATS) vs. Stanford Cardinal (3-3 SU, 2-4 ATS)
College Football Week 8
Date and Time: Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 9PM EDT
Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California
Point Spread: UCLA +10/STAN -10 (Bookmaker)
Over/Under Total: 54
In Pac-12 action on Thursday from Northern Cali, the UCLA Bruins come into town to battle the Stanford Cardinal. Both teams had last week off, which I’m sure was welcome in light of a punishing start to the season for each squad. Stanford was able to go into their week off with a good feeling, following an upset win over Washington, 23-13, in a game where they were two-touchdown underdogs. That’s how bad things had been going for the Cardinal. It’s not any worse than what UCLA has dealt with this season, losing two straight since a stunning win over Washington State to fall to 1-5. After losing by 17 to Oregon State, can they use the week off to good effect and give the Cardinal a run for their money?
The quarterback issues for both teams run deep. For Stanford, both starter and backup KJ Costello and Davis Mills are listed as questionable. Costello has missed time, which has disrupted this offense. It was good to see Mills lead his team to a win over Washington and play a good game, but he had to leave the game with an injury. As of press time, it’s a bit unclear where Stanford will go with this, but I would assume one of them would start. For UCLA, starting quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson also missed the last game with an injury, with the Bruins also turning to a backup. The week off couldn’t have come at a better time for either team, but questions still loom as to who we’ll see behind center come Thursday for both sides.
The Wildly Varying Forms of Each Team
Lately in the Pac-12, teams playing with different forms from week to week is nothing unusual, but even within that context, these two teams have really pushed the envelope. For the Bruins at 1-5 and 2-4 ATS, the peaks are outnumbered by the valleys by a large margin. But just as you’re ready to rule them out, you think of that 50-point half they put up on the road against a Washington State team a couple of weeks back, winning a thriller, 67-63. You figured they would cool down, but in putting up 17 in a loss to Arizona, before losing to Oregon State at home by 17, they really outdid themselves.
Heading into Stanford’s game with Washington, a potential Stanford backer bristled at the thought of a Washington home-offense taking it to a beleaguered Stanford defense. They had just barely squeaked by the Beavers, which followed three massive losses that were completely lopsided. Their secondary looked like the worst in the Power Five. So what do they do? They hold Washington QB Jacob Eason to his worst game of the year. An offense that couldn’t do anything right was suddenly operating without a hitch, with Mills running things well. And they even got a dormant run-game going, with RB Cameron Scarlett having a career day against the Huskies. In other words, you can have an idea of how these teams play, without getting terribly surprised when they do something very different.
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Avenues for Each to Thrive
Regardless of who is behind center, the Stanford offense has to be licking their chops at the prospects of going against this substandard UCLA defense. The Bruins allow an average of 340 yards through the air per game. The run defense isn’t a ton better, and Stanford found some success recently on this side of the ball, running the ball better and getting Mills more acclimated to the offense in the event that he needs to start again. In the last four games, even with allowing just 20 to Arizona, the Bruins have given up an average of nearly 45 points a game. I would look for some of the talented Stanford ball-catchers to surface this week, while Scarlett follows up well after his big game against the Huskies.
Granted, the UCLA offense falls flat a lot. But there is some talent on this side of the ball, and we’ve seen what can happen this season when the stars all align right. Getting DTR back in there behind center would be a good start. They’ve started showing a good run game, led by Jordan Kelley and Demetric Felton, who has also been making a splash aerially. Granted, that O-line is a significant drawback. But despite a great showing against Washington, enough flaws have been seen in the Stanford pass-defense to give some daylight to a Bruins’ offense that has shown the ability, however sparsely-applied, to pick up big chunks through the air.
But when looking at UCLA and all their issues, it’s only fair to turn some of that attention to Stanford. Against the more-talented offenses they have faced this season with the exception of the Huskies, they’ve fallen pretty flat, downright exploitable in spots. The offense, with Costello having dealt with multiple injuries this season, hasn’t been able to hit its stride and lacks continuity and rhythm. Still, they’ve hit higher notes this season than UCLA, and a win over Washington followed by a week off probably deposits them in a pretty good headspace as they brace for this home game against an opponent that on paper, they should be able to deal with.
Take the Home Favorite
Again, this conference has a way of producing results that follow no logic. Stanford could revert to what they were looking for before they beat Washington, with UCLA exploiting their defense with some big shootout taking place where it’s anyone’s game. I just see more scenarios shaking out that enable Stanford to put a little distance on UCLA, getting the win and cover at home. I’ll take the Cardinal.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Stanford Cardinal minus 10 points.
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