UCLA Bruins (4-1 SU, 2-2-1 ATS) vs. Stanford Cardinal (4-1 SU, 4-1 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date/Time: Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 10:30PM EST
Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UCLA +5.5/STAN -5.5
Over/Under Total: Off
In Thursday Pac-12 play, the UCLA Bruins head northbound to face the Stanford Cardinal. The 15th-ranked Bruins last played on the 3rd of the month in a shocking 38-23 loss to Arizona Statetheir first loss of the season. Stanford, meanwhile, has been on a roll and is ranked 15th. Since that opening-week loss to Northwestern, theyve won 4 in a row and enter this key home matchup with some momentum.
The Bruins loss to ASU was puzzling, but were seeing a lot of that from the Pac-12 this season and its not stopping. Week after week, huge underdogs are winning outright, home teams are getting lit up, and a teams form from week-to-week seems to have almost no bearing on the outcomes of games. As 1-point favorites the week before, UCLA beat Arizona by 26. Then as 12.5-point favorites against the Sun Devils, they lost by 15. Go figure.
Stanford has seen some bizarre results go down this season, as well. Their last game, also on the 3rd, was a 55-17 hammering of Arizona. As 10-point dogs to USC, they won by 10. And its been mostly uphill since their strange 6-point output to Northwestern. Their point total has increased weekly, topping out at 55 in the Arizona win. With a defense that is still characteristically-stout, the offense appears to be moving forward nicely under the stewardship of senior quarterback Kevin Hogan and they have a run-game that is amongst the top in the nation.
Hogan has been completing passes at a high rate and isnt turning the ball over. Some running backs with big names in this sport, Christian McCaffrey and Barry Sanders, Jr., are having big games, as well. McCaffrey is over 600 yards on the heels of some big games. Sanders, Jr. and Remound Wright are producing the scoring, with a combined 11 rushing touchdowns. Michael Rector and Austin Hooper have been the ones responsible for the pass-production. Its an offense that has balance and for the first time in a while, can be depended on to score a lot of points.
In three conference games, the Stanford defense has been getting progressively better, giving up 31,24, and then 17 points in their last game to the Wildcats. Meanwhile, their offensive production keeps increasing. After watching them in their first week of the season, it was hard to envision them being in this spot barely a month laterranked, 3-0 in conference play, and in a position to score some really meaningful wins. Stanford is going to be tough to beat at home this week.
A lot of excitement toward UCLA went sailing out the window after the loss to ASU. After a break, they now have a chance to atone for that in great measure by scoring a heavy-duty road win over the Cardinal. It is a rematch from a 38-10 win by Stanford last season and though a lot of the principles are different, a lot of pieces are still the same. But UCLA is focusing on mental reconstruction following the perplexing loss to the Sun Devils.
Freshman Josh Rosen has made headlines for his excellent play at times this season, but he wasnt very good against Arizona State, as the pressure they put on him seemed to make him wilt later in the game. Normally-productive Paul Perkins had a bad game and the offense was truly off-key. It was upsetting to see UCLA approach the game with what seemed like such flippancy, as if they just expected everything to fall into place.
Its possible that this is a formless conference for the most part. In other words, taking UCLA to task for losing to Arizona State doesnt make much sense in a conference where the strange results have been numerous. Before the loss, a lot of people were excited about the Bruins. They have a lot of playmakers on offense, with Perkins still a monster out of the backfield, with Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte a nice 1-2 punch in the pass-catching category. Its a well-balanced offense at its best, though they were far from that in their last game.
UCLAs defense didnt have one of their better outings in their last game, with the Sun Devils putting up 462 yards of total offense. They were on the field an awfully-long time and were spent late. When a key stop was needed, the Bruins defense was missing in action. And after seeing the way theyve given up chunks of yardage to opposing running backs, one wonders how UCLA will stand up over the long-haul against the powerful Stanford ground game.
Stanford is at home and has the momentum. They have a deep running game and should be able to exploit UCLA in that area. But this could be a spot for a highly-motivated Bruins team to surface. Theres a little revenge factor involved from last seasons game, and the more immediate sense of atonement following the upset home loss to ASU in their last game. Theyre both 4-1 and just because UCLAs loss is more recent doesnt mean theyre not in Stanfords league. Stanford is tough, but something tells me to expect a tough game that could be up for grabs late. In cases like that, one is tempted to take the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im picking the UCLA Bruins plus 5.5 points.
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