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Considering the teams in question, this line is one of the more interesting ones of the first weekend. There's no doubt UCLA is the better team, but they come in as -20.5 point favorites at 5dimes, which seems a little steep. The Bruins were an inconsistent team last year as seen in their bad loss to a poor California team and three losses to finish the season. Nevada won't be scared of this matchup as they have experience against Pac-12 teams. The Wolf Pack beat California in last year's opener and lost by one point to Arizona in their bowl game.
The basis of the betting line falls on Nevada's defense, who is usually pretty bad allowing 47.6 points per game in their last 10 contests against the Top 25 teams. Then again, you can't ignore their offense that scored close to 38 points per game last year. It's also worth noting that they'll have a new head coach in Brian Polian.
Running back Stefphon Jefferson is gone from Nevada's offense, but transfer Ron Jackson isn't a huge step down. Nevada still has the do-it-all Cody Fajardo at quarterback, who rushed for 1,121 yards to go with his 2,786 passing yards last year. Three of his top receivers are returning so he may be even better in the passing game, albeit his top tight end is gone in Zach Sudfeld. The Bruins don't have a powerhouse defense by any means, and they often had trouble with run-first offenses last season.
There's no question UCLA will score in this game, but just like Nevada, they are without last year's leading rusher in Johnathan Franklin and leading TD receiver Joseph Fauria. Brett Hundley and Shaq Evans are going to be the main focus points on this offense and should beat most defenses. The junior Jordan James will step in at running back after managing just 215 yards on 61 carries last season.
UCLA surprised a lot of people last year with how successful they were in Jim Mora's first season and now they are ranked in the preseason Top 25. However, Nevada is not a push over and they won't fall down and give in to a blowout to the Bruins. The Wolf Pack have an experienced quarterback that can put points on the board and will be able to keep this game close.
As for the numbers, Nevada is pretty bad against the spread at only 2-7 ATS in their last nine games and 1-4 ATS in their last five road games. UCLA has solid numbers against the MWC going 10-3 ATS in their last 13 against the conference. The over/under is sitting around 66 points and that seems relatively low with how these offenses looked last season. The over has hit in five of the Wolf Pack's last six games against the Pac-12, while it's also gone 6-1 in the Bruins last seven games overall.
Both lines will ultimately come down to UCLA's defense. Can they stop Fajardo and company or will Nevada be able to throw 30 points on the board? One of the best sackers in the nation, linebacker Anthony Barr, leads UCLA's unit that gave up 30 points six different times last season.
If this game was played at the very end of last season, our score prediction model would have had UCLA winning by a score of 58-27. Now, as a handicapper, you have to decide whether enough changes have occurred with both teams, to shrink that gap.
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