College Football Picks - Stanford Cardinal vs. UCLA Bruins

Stanford Cardinal Running Back

Willie Bee

Thursday, September 22, 2016 3:09 PM GMT

Thursday, Sep. 22, 2016 3:09 PM GMT

One of Saturday's marquee games takes place in a marquee stadium, and we've got a free college football pick for Stanford against UCLA in the venerable Rose Bowl.

If there's any bad news for the Stanford Cardinal right now, it's that a couple of tough road tests await them. Of course, when you have Superman in your backfield, it's tough to imagine there's ever any bad news.

Just as they've done almost every year since 1925, Stanford and the UCLA Bruins will lace up their cleats for a little gridiron action. This year's affair takes place Saturday evening (8 PM ET) in the Rose Bowl with ABC's cameras on hand to televise the action, and the early action at sports books has been on Stanford. The Cardinal opened -2½ at 5Dimes, that spread rising to 3½ at one point this week before settling on an even field goal. The total dipped from an initial 47½ to 46½.

The good news for is the upcoming pair of road games for the Cardinal begins against a Bruins team they've had recent success against. Stanford has beaten UCLA eight consecutive times, including the 2012 Pac-12 Championship, three of those meetings taking place in LA.

Last year's contest at Stanford was a high-scoring affair with the Cardinal taking a 56-35 decision as 6½ point favorites on the NCAA football odds. It marked the seventh time during the win streak the Cardinal were spread beaters, the only ATS loss coming in the 2012 conference title tilt. Five of the last six matchups at the Rose Bowl failed to reach the totals.

 

Cardinal Can Play Some Defense, Too
The Superman comment before was obviously aimed at Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, and early favorite for the Heisman Trophy and keeping himself very much in contention two games into the campaign. The junior leads the nation in all-purpose yards, averaging 235 per game with nearly 150 of that clip coming on the ground.

McCaffrey had 260 total yards in last week's 27-10 victory over Southern Cal, the Cardinal easily covering a -7½ closing spread.  He ran for a Stanford record 243 yards in last year's win over UCLA, scoring half of Stanford's eight touchdowns.

Almost lost in the hype surrounding McCaffrey has been the solid defense David Shaw's teams are known for. The Cardinal have a top 10 stop unit in scoring (11.5 ppg) and are 30th in the country in rushing D (104.5 ypg). On that note, starting defensive tackle Harrison Phillips is questionable with a knee injury.

 

How Will Bruins Stop McCaffrey?
Jim Mora will be happy if his side can just limit McCaffrey's damage this time, and the Bruins tuned up for that with a huge defensive effort in last week's 17-14 win at BYU. UCLA held the Cougars to just 273 total yards, only 23 of that on the ground and a third of the grand total coming during BYU's last drive of the game.

That final scoring drive by the Cougars did keep UCLA backers from collecting, the third time in as many games the Bruins failed to cover the college football odds. They played that game without starting halfback Soso Jamabo and starting safety Randall Goforth due to suspensions. Both are currently listed as questionable this week.

Kickoff will come in the cocktail hour, 5 o'clock in Pasadena, and it's still going to be on the warm side in the mid-to-upper 80s under clear skies with a light SE breeze. It is always difficult for yours truly to ignore trends when making a free college football pick, such as Stanford winning and covering plus the 'under' at the Rose Bowl. But I'm turning my back on one of those, and playing this one 'over' the total.

Season: 8-10-1 (-2.35)

Free College Football Pick: Stanford-UCLA Over 46½ 
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes
 

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