Washington State Cougars (6-3 SU, 7-2 ATS) vs. UCLA Bruins (7-2 SU, 4-4-1 ATS)
College Football Week 11
Date/Time: Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 10:45PM EST
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WSU +9.5/UCLA -9.5
Over/Under Total: 65.5
The Washington State Cougars come down to Los Angeles to face the UCLA Bruins on Saturday in an important Pac-12 matchup. The Bruins are in good form, on the heels of 3 straight wins, including a 41-0 road shutout over Oregon State. At 7-2, they are still holding out hope for big things this season. Washington State also won their last game, a 38-24 win over Arizona State, a win that lifted their conference mark to 4-2. They look to increase their profile even more with a big road win over UCLA this week.
The Cougars have made a substantive move this season, winning 4 of their last 5 gamesall Pac-12 games. They have shown their ability to win conference games on the road, having beaten Oregon and Arizona on the road this season. They hold wins over some tough Pac-12 teams this season and gave the conference kingpins Stanford a real run for their money in a 30-28 loss. Whatever ideas you have about the Cougars should be updated, as they are actually a very competitive Pac-12 team this season.
Key among the reasons Washington State has ascended to these heights is the nations second-leading pass-attack, led by blossoming quarterback Luke Falk, who has thrown for 3736 yards to go along with 33 touchdowns. And hes not just a mindless gunslinger, as the youngster has a knack for the clutch play and knows how to manufacture a win. Several times this season when a game was for the taking, we saw some positive play from the sophomore quarterback.
Falk works with a nice stockpile of talented playmakers in the Cougars offense. Granted, the run game is somewhat negligible, serving as window dressing for the aerial exploits. Gerard Wicks, Keith Harrington, and Jamal Morrow are good players and can sometimes make an impact coming out of the backfield. But the real weapons are of the aerial variety, with Gabe Marks, Dom Williams, River Cracraft, Robert Lewis, and Harrington combining for 26 passing TDs in 2015. This offense averages 36 points per game, with an average of 417 yards through the air. Its a lot for opposing defenses to contain.
As is the case with a lot of high-flying aerial attacks, the main outstanding issue always seems to be defense and Washington States is far from excellent, the 84th ranked defense in the land. Its not a total abomination, but against the run, WASU is really struggling, giving up an average of an alarming 206 yards per game. Theyve been somewhat serviceable against the pass, but that could be due to opposing teams having so much luck on the ground. While they are 4-2 in conference and thats what counts, theyve given up an average of nearly 35 points per game in the Pac-12 and that can resonate badly against some of the better offenses around, including UCLAs.
A lot of people wrote off the Bruins following a particularly brutal stretch, where they lost consecutive routs to Arizona State at home and Stanford. UCLA was highly-ranked and looking good, before showing no fight against ASU at home and in a lopsided road loss to the Cardinal. There appeared to be a disconnect on the team, as true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen looked to hit a wall as they got into the meat of their conference schedule. And the injuries sustained early on started to manifest badly. But over the course of the last three weeks, they have righted the ship. Saturdays 41-0 road win over Oregon State was a great showing and suggests that the Bruins could be in the mix and with a strong finish, the Pac-12 South is still in the offing.
Rosen has thrown for nearly 1000 yards in his last three games, while not throwing a pick in his last 3, as well. There were some rocky passages this season, with the freshman blue-chipper needing some time to find his legs in this tough schedule, but he looks to be in fine form heading down the stretch of the regular season. He is boosted immeasurably by the run-game, which gives this offense a nice sense of balance. Paul Perkins is a dependable workhorse, while Soso Jamabo and Nate Starks chip in on the ground, as well. They could make the difference on Saturday, with the WSU run-defense in a state of dysfunction. Aerially, Rosen works well with the 1-2 receiver punch of Thomas Duarte and Jordan Payton, with a slew of other speedy contributors who can step up with big plays here and there.
The UCLA defense is better than Washington States, though they share some of the same issues. They are pretty good against the pass for the most part, not great perhaps, but good enough to provide the offense some room to breathe. But against the run, theyre not very good, often struggling to curb opposing ground games. Against some teams, theyre pretty tough, but theyve given up a lot to some of the flashier offenses in the conference. How they do in this game comes down to a lot of factors, but you have to imagine they wont be able to totally derail a Cougars offense that is now in a nice groove.
This is a big game for both teams. Either team can still forge a very strong season and secure a berth into meaningful bowl game. But with a big point-spread and facing a truly-dangerous WSU offense that can jump on you quickly, Im inclined to take the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Washington State Cougars plus 9.5 points.
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