The top matchup the Pac-12 this week in college football betting is on Thursday and it's a possible preview of the conference championship between No. 18 UCLA and No. 15 Stanford. The host Cardinal are -6.5 on Bookmaker with a total of 54.5.
Cardinal Now Favored In North
Oregon was again the preseason favorite in the Pac-12 North but the Ducks have fallen flat on their faces and already have two conference losses. Thus Stanford (4-1, 3-0) could lose this game and still control its destiny in winning the North. And it's likely to be favored the rest of the regular season. The remaining games are: vs. Washington, at Washington State, at Colorado, vs. Oregon, vs. Cal, vs. Notre Dame. There could be a scenario where Stanford has the division wrapped up but loses to the Irish -- that could potentially keep the Pac-12 winner out of the College Football Playoff because there's no great team in the South Division with preseason favorite USC struggling.
Stanford didn't look like a Pac-12 contender in Week 1 as it went to unranked Northwestern and lost ugly, 16-6. But the Cardinal have won their next four by double digits and scored at least 31 points in each. Stanford is one of just five FBS teams to score at least 31 points in each of its past three contests and one of two to do so without facing an FCS program.
The Cardinal are always among the nation's best defensive teams and they rank 18th overall in total defense but an usually low 33rd in rushing defense (129.6 ypg). Stanford, also normally one of the best teams in the nation at sacking the quarterback, has just six sacks this year, tied for last in the Pac-12.
But Kevin Hogan has become one of the conference's best quarterbacks. He is completing 67.5 percent of his passes for 1,155 yards, nine scores and two picks. He was a brilliant 17-for-19 for 217 yards, two scores and a season-high rating of 220.1 in Stanford's last game, a 55-17 blowout of Arizona on Oct. 3. Christian McCaffery is the clear featured back, rushing 105 times for 601 yards and a TD. The short-yardage guy is Remound Wright, who has seven TDs.
This season on college football odds, Stanford is 4-1 against the spread and 3-2 'over/under.'
UCLA Likely Can't Afford Another Loss
While Stanford could afford a loss and still win the North, it would be tough for the Bruins (4-1, 1-1 ) to lose and take the South. That's because they come off a 38-23 home loss to unranked Arizona State on Oct. 3 -- the fewest points UCLA has scored this season and the most it has allowed. Star running back Paul Perkins was held to just 63 yards rushing by ASU. True freshman QB Josh Rosen was 22-for-40 for 280 yards, two scores and a pick. He looks like a future No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
The Bruins defense has been ravaged by season-ending injuries this season. The latest was to Mossi Johnson, who was moved to safety after cornerback Fabian Moreau broke his foot and was lost for the season. Also out are defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and linebacker Myles Jack. But linebacker Jayon Brown and cornerback Marcus Rios will play in this one after sitting out the Arizona State game with injuries.
Whether UCLA can run the ball with Perkins likely will decide this game. UCLA averaged only 3.8 yards per carry in last year's loss. It was 2.7 yards per carry in the 2013 defeat. And only 2.2 in the 2012 loss.
The Bruins are 2-2-1 ATS on college football picks this season and 1-4 O/U.
Last year in Pasadena, the No. 9 Bruins were 6-point favorites (total of 48.5) but they were clobbered by unranked Stanford 31-10. Hogan passed for 234 yards (going 16-for-19) and two touchdowns. The Cardinal also rushed for 202 yards, outgaining UCLA 436-262 and holding the ball for nearly 38 minutes. Former Bruins star QB Brett Hundley, now with the Packers, had one of the worst games of his career (17-for-34, 146 yards) in his home finale. Perkins was a minor bright spot, rushing 17 times for 116 yards. That loss ended UCLA's hopes at winning the Pac-12 South Division -- Arizona won it -- and any shot for a spot in the College Football Playoff. It was Stanford's seven straight win in the series. It's tied for the Cardinal's longest active winning streak against any opponent. Stanford has scored at least 24 points in each of the past seven victories.
College Football Picks: Stanford -6.5 and 'under' 54.5 at Bookmaker. Not sure Rosen is ready for that Stanford defense yet. UCLA is 2-5 ATS in its past seven following a loss. Stanford is 5-0 ATS in its past five Pac-12 games. The Bruins are 1-6 ATS in the past seven meetings. The 'under' is 10-4 in UCLA's past 14 on the road. The 'under' is 13-6 in Stanford's past 19 conference games.