NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET
|Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA|
Our Pick: UCLA UCLA at 10.5 (-108). Enjoy a $1,000 risk-free bet when you sign up with BetMGM today!
After beating Ohio State, the Oregon Ducks looked like a team ready to contend for one of the four College Football Playoff spots. But then a loss to Stanford put a damper on such talk. If they are going to have any shot at ending the Pac-12’s CFP drought during the 2021 college football season, they have to win out—starting with a tough UCLA squad this week.
With two losses already, it is unlikely the Bruins will have a shot at the CFP, even if they were to win out. But that does not mean they do not have anything to play for. Bruins fans would love to see their team win the conference for the first time since 1998 (when it was the Pac-10).
If they can make it harder for the Ducks to win the conference, well—that would be icing on the cake.
Turnovers have played a significant role for the Oregon Ducks this season. They got three against Fresno State that led to 17 points. The one against Ohio State brought the Buckeyes last potential scoring drive to an end and locked up the upset for the Ducks. The nine total against Stony Brook and Arizona helped make it easy to blow out both teams.
Then they face a Stanford team that had not turned the ball over since their season opener. While Oregon generated over 400 yards of offense in the game, the defense did not force a turnover. But Anthony Brown’s interception led to seven points for the Cardinal. However, that was not the only reason the Ducks lost that game. The offense lacks consistency, takes too long to warm up, and relies too much on short fields.
Anthony Brown is only completing 58.9 percent of his passes this season. His per-game percentages have ranged from 47.6 to 71.4. As long as the running game works, they can manage his accuracy issues. But losing CJ Verdell for the season was a big blow to the run game. However, Travis Dye has run well since taking over the lead role two weeks ago (135 total yards against Stanford; 218 total yards and a touchdown against Cal).
Kayvon Thibodeaux is a force to be reckoned with on the defensive front, capable of disrupting every play if an offense does not game-plan sufficiently for him. But the unit gives up over 400 yards of offense a game. If not for all the turnovers, they would probably be giving up more than 21 points a game, too.
After leading the Bruins to a 10-21 record in his first three seasons, many thought UCLA should have moved on from Chip Kelly after the 2020 season. But with how the Bruins are playing this season, it is safe to say holding onto Kelly was the right move.
His offense with the Bruins is nothing like what he ran at Oregon. It is not a fast-paced, big-play type of offense at all. No, it is more of a balanced, ball-control style that is more productive on the ground (219.9 yards/game) than through the air (205.3 yards/game). However, when you average 33.6 points a game like the Bruins do, you are less likely to beat teams simply by outscoring them (like Kelly’s Oregon teams often did).
Opponents must play solid defense—which UCLA does a decent job of. They are stingy against the run (91.0 yards/game allowed). While they do have some strong run stuffers in the front seven, they may look better than they are because the secondary is giving up 290.1 yards/game.
But, like Oregon, the UCLA defense has done well forcing turnovers (11 in seven games).
The key to success appears to be the running game so far. Yes, the balance on offense is important, but it is the 200+ rushing yards that paved the way to each of their five wins. In doing so, they control the ball and keep it away from the other team. But they also limit the opportunities opposing teams have to take advantage of their secondary.
Sports Betting Recommendation
There will probably not be another game this season where the two teams are as statistically similar as Oregon and UCLA. They are producing almost identical numbers on offense and allowing similar numbers on defense—which tells us this should be a good, close game.
But Dorian Thompson-Robinson gives UCLA an edge because he is a better passer than Oregon’s Anthony Brown. It is easier to see Thompson-Robinson getting the job done over Brown if it comes down to a late scoring drive to win the game. With how evenly these teams are matched, that is a distinct possibility. Because of that, take UCLA to win against the point spread.
As for the total, with the potential both offenses have and since neither has a lock-down defense, take the over.