NCAAF Pick: Bet UCLA to Exact Revenge vs. Arizona State

Darin Zank

Monday, September 22, 2014 9:14 PM GMT

Monday, Sep. 22, 2014 9:14 PM GMT

In the game that decided the Pac-12 South last year UCLA lost at home to Arizona State. The Bruins go in search of revenge when they take on the Sun Devils Thursday night in Tempe (10 pm ET, Fox Sports 1). Here's our breakdown of this match-up, with our free college football pick, for what it's worth.

The Betting Odds
As of early this week some online sportsbooks were listing UCLA at around -5.5 over ASU, but many shops were holding off on lining this game, due presumably to the Arizona State quarterback situation.

 

Game Set-Up
UCLA is 3-0 SU but 0-3 ATS this season. The Bruins opened with a 28-20 victory at Virginia, but couldn't cover as 18-point favorites. Heck, UCLA only scored one offensive touchdown that day, but got three scores from its defense. The Bruins then won a wild game over Memphis 42-35, but came nowhere close to covering at -22. And two weeks ago UCLA survived losing starting QB Brett Hundley in the first quarter to an elbow injury, winning at Texas 20-17 but coming up short against the spread at -8.

So far, it appears as if the college football odds have been overestimating the Bruins just a bit.

UCLA returned 17 starters this year, nine on offense and eight on defense, from a team that went 10-3 last year. The Bruins also went off this season as the favorites to win the Pac-12 South.

Arizona State, meanwhile, is 3-0 SU but 1-2 ATS. The Sun Devils opened with a 45-14 victory over FCS Weber State, but couldn't cover at -45. ASU then won at New Mexico 58-23, covering at -24. Last week the Devils won at Colorado 38-24, but came up short of the spread at -15. They actually had the spread covered three different times in that game, but gave up a score with eight minutes to go that cut their lead from 21 points to 14.

Arizona State actually got outgained by the Buffaloes 545-426 and lost the time-of-possession battle by a 35-25 margin. Maybe the Sun Devils didn't deserve to cover, after all.

ASU returned just eight starters this season from a team that went 10-4 last year. Six starters were back on offense, but only two returned on defense.

 

Bruins-Sun Devils Recent History
UCLA head coach Jim Mora and ASU coach Todd Graham have squared off twice since both took over their current positions, splitting two high-scoring games. The Bruins beat the Sun Devils two years ago in Tempe 45-43, but Arizona State returned the favor last year, beating UCLA at the Rose Bowl 38-33.

Last year, with a berth in the Pac-12 championship game on the line, the Sun Devils used an interception return for a score to grab a 35-13 halftime lead, then held on from there, covering as three-point favorites on the road. The Devils outgained the Bruins that day 448-404, outrushed 'em 223-151 and won the time-of-possession battle by a 32-28 margin. That's how you win games and cover pointspreads in college football.

However, Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly accounted for 225 yards through the air in that game, and 99 yards on the ground, with two scores; he will not account for anything this Saturday. 

 

Injury Update
Arizona State will be without QB Kelly, who injured a foot against Colorado and had to leave the game. Back-up QB Mike Bercovici, a junior, has thrown a total of 24 passes during his college career.

On the other side of this QB match-up early reports indicate Hundley, who hurt his non-throwing elbow against Texas and had to leave the game, will be OK to start Thursday.

 

Bruins-Sun Devils Betting Trends

UCLA is 6-5 SU, 8-3 ATS in the last 11 meetings in this series.

The OVER is 4-0 in the last four meetings.

 

Free NCAAF Pick
We still haven't seen UCLA play a complete game this season. We expect big things out of the Bruins  this year – a division title, in fact. And they'll have a hard time doing that if they lose this game. So we'll go with UCLA, minus the points, for our free college football pick on this contest.

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