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Pick - Analysis
UCLA has looked great in its first three games, covering in all of them. In the Bruins first road game, they got out to a slow start, but ended up dominating Nebraska. Utah has surprised people as well, although they already have a home conference loss to Oregon State. With that said, UCLA is a 4-point favorite on the road at betonline.
The Bruins were a surprising team last year and look even more improved in Jim Mora's second season as coach. However, we still have to see how they compete in the Pac-12. Considering every other South division team already has a loss, UCLA is in a great position at the moment. Of course, eventual back-to-back road games at Oregon and Stanford may not be too kind to that record.
Quarterback Brett Hundley leads the No. 12 team in the nation. From what we've seen so far, he looks like a more accurate and consistent passer. Throw that in with his ability to extend drives with his legs and he's a tough guy to stop. That explains why they were able to put 41 points on the board at Nebraska. It also helps to have a guy like Shaquelle Evans catching balls (210 yards, 3 TDs), as he's going to be a NFL target soon. The run game was in question entering the season after losing Johnathan Frankling, but Jordon James has stepped in and looked just fine. In fact, he's better than fine, going for 424 yards and four touchdowns in the first three games.
Utah's defense has had trouble against better opponents this year and we'll likely see that again. Even though they beat Utah State, Chuckie Keeton was still able to carve through them. The Utes also struggled against Sean Mannion and Oregon State in their only loss of the season, allowing 45 points in regulation.
That's where quarterback Travis Wilson comes in. It's going to be up to him to keep the Utes close and in striking distance. The only problem is that UCLA boasts a better defense than Oregon State, so it may be a problem. Still, Wilson has done well this season in close games, especially in wins over Utah State and BYU. He already has nine passing TDs and 1,118 yards, which is miles above where he was last year. Wilson can also move on the ground as seen in his 251 yards and five touchdowns. RB James Poole (304 rushing yards) and WR Dres Anderson (404 receiving yards) will both have to step up and help Wilson out for them to succeed.
Both teams are coming off a bye, but it may help the home team more as they'll get extra time to prepare for the dynamic UCLA offense. Utah has played well so far this season with a couple big wins, but this is a whole new test. The Bruins bring in a better offense and defense than what the Beavers had, and that's what many people see when examining this game.
UCLA is just 2-7 ATS in its last nine games following a bye week, but 5-2 ATS in its last seven road games. Utah is 6-2 ATS in its last eight home games and has not covered in four straight conference matchups. In last year's meeting, the Bruins won at home 21-14 in a defensive battle.
We like Utah here but ultimately decided not to play the game. The Utes giving up 51 points to Oregon State had a lot to do with that decision. But note that while UCLA has looked great, games against New Mexico State and Nevada helped those numbers. Utah has performed equally as well but against a much more difficult schedule.
Our model has this as a shootout type game with a predicted 35-35 final, so the points worth a look here. Utah +6
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