UCLA Bruins (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date and Time: Saturday, August 30, 2014
Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Virginia
by Scotty L., Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UCLA -21.5/UVA+21.5
Over/Under Total: 58
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The UCLA Bruins and Virginia Cavaliers each kick off their seasons with this first-ever meeting between these teams. A quick look at the spread tells some of the story, as the highly-regarded Bruins are better than 3-touchdown favorites over the lowly Cavaliers, who couldnt even win a game in the ACC last year.
Hopes are high for the Bruins, who some suspect will able to join Oregon and Stanford among the elite of the Pac-12. They closed 2013 strong with 5 wins in 6 games and they return a lot of players to an offense that could sparkle. Returning to the huddle is a budding star in QB Brett Hundley, who has a full cast at his disposal. Needless to say, Virginia looks to be in trouble.
Virginia head coach Paul Johnson has done a good job in some areas, namely recruiting and attitudinally. But the positive results have proven to be elusive. Is this the year where Johnsons strides in the recruiting arena begin to manifest on the field of play? The Cavaliers offense is likely to handcuff whatever progress they have made. David Watford or Greyson Lambert, who is pegged to start, just havent been getting it done at QB, not that they have the best tools to work with. Virginias run game features a returning 1000-yard runner, but RB Kevin Parks is more a dependable sort, devoid of any game-breaking ability. And the receiving crew, while deep, hasnt really been able to help the quarterback in 2013. But maybe a fire can be lit underneath the Cavaliers offense somehow because they have really been underachieving for a few years now.
UCLA has no such issues on offense. Hundley will be dishing off to a full slate of talent and he can even run the ball too, rushing for 748 yards in his sophomore campaign in 2013. He has a good rotation of backs in Jordon James, Paul Perkins, and two-way phenom Myles Jack. The receiving unit is stacked with impressive depth, with playmakers like Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton, Devin Lucien, and Thomas Duarte. The line is tempered with game experience and will be able to open big holes for the run-game, while protecting their swashbuckling quarterback against opposing pass-rushers.
Virginia actually has what should be a pretty serviceable defense. Again, some solid recruiting has left them with some nice pieces of manpower. Now its time to get them to play as a unit. Nine starters return to a Cavaliers D that has a lot of talent. They have a nice line, led by pass-rusher Eli Harold, with nice run-stop potential from their defensive tackles David Dean and Chris Brathwaite. Their linebacking is solid with a stout pass-rush. If the front-seven does their job, an experienced secondary should be better with added experience this season. Free safety Anthony Harris, with 8 picks in 2013, returns and could be a dandy.
UCLAs defense lost a lot of key pieces. It requires a leap of faith, but one should assume that recruiting along these lines has been strong, meaning UCLA should find their bearings defensively sooner than later. The front-seven saw a lot of key losses, but enough of a foundation still exists to build around. If so, look for a playmaking secondary to make major strides this season. Either way, even before theyve had a chance to fully congeal, this D should make life hard on a milquetoast Virginia offense.
One should look at week one in the 2013 season, when Virginia beat BYU at home, 19-16. That was their only win of the season over an FBS school. Its just that they may be more dangerous early on in the season. UCLA would likely have more of a bonanza if this were late in the season, after the Virginia D has been worn down to a nub having to pick up the slack for this offense. But early on, Virginia still carries some hope, until it gets emphatically pounded into their heads that they stink. Before that, they can enjoy the ignorance that comes from it not having been proven that they are terrible. You can see some better performances early on from a team like this.
But when the point-spread is this big, you have to examine the favorites headspace. UCLA has no connection to this team that would give way to a heightened sense of urgency. UCLA can see the Cavaliers only won 2 games last season, with one of those victories coming against the Virginia Military Institute. Its just not likely to give way to an especially fiery Bruins performance.
Sure, Brett Hundley will be looking to put together a season worthy of him getting drafted high next year. And as a team, the Bruins are looking to take the next step forward and coach Jim Mora will have a fire lit under this bunch. Lets face it, it would hardly register on the surprise-meter if UCLA managed to torch Virginia. But maybe there are just enough questions about the Bruins D, while the Virginia home D can be resilient enough to repel a full-fledged rampage. I like Virginia and the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting the Virginia Cavaliers plus 21.5 points. Bet this game for FREE by depositing $100, making a $100 bet and then you’ll get a free $100 credit at Sportsbook!