Well Rested Bears are Thursday's College Football Pick vs. UCLA

Mark Lathrop

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 2:02 PM UTC

Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 2:02 PM UTC

Our College Football handicapper has found excellent value in one of the early Week 8 games, as the Cal Bears visit the UCLA Bruins in primetime Thursday night action.

The University of California – Berkeley Golden Bears, coming off of their first loss of the season against now #3 ranked Utah, head into the Coliseum to take on the UCLA Bruins on Thursday night in a nationally televised game on ESPN. Although they had a bye last week, Cal still climbed in the rankings to #20, which is the highest they’ve been ranked since 2009. UCLA was also highly ranked to begin the season and after a 4-0 start climbed all the way to #7 in the country. However, UCLA has now lost their last two games - to Arizona State at home and to Stanford on the road. Now rankings don’t mean much to handicappers most of the time, but they are instrumental in setting public perception and betting habits.


Betting Odds
UCLA was favored in opening lines for this game by 5 points. That line has since been bet down to 3.5 points at multiple books with the juice leaning towards it dropping to 3. The O/U total can be found at 65.5 points at 5Dimes and 66 at Heritage.

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UCLA Bruins
In an ongoing tradition of non-tradition in nationally televised games, UCLA will be wearing black uniforms on Thursday night. I guess the snazzy uniforms actually help for recruiting or something. I’m also guessing that not allowing the Stanford Cardinal to put up 56 points against you would also help with recruiting. The UCLA defense has been absolutely atrocious against the run in the last few weeks, giving up 310 yards to Stanford last week and 353 yards two weeks before against Arizona. That’s good for 115th in the nation. They’ve got to be glad that California only averages 162.3 YPG on the ground, but my guess is that the Golden Bears will focus more on establishing the run in this game.


California Bears
Cal also has a potent passing game which is 8th in the nation and racks up 355.3 YPG. This passing game went awry on them in their loss against Utah, as junior Jared Goff threw 5 interceptions in that game alone. That was quite an anomaly, and Goff’s 53.2 completion percentage in that game was by far the lowest of the season – usually it sits in the low 70 percent range. Even with that performance Goff’s QBR through six games is 157.1, so he is a bona fide star. Now, UCLA’s passing defense only gives up 176.2 YPG, but I’d have to say that is a result of other teams just running down their throat versus going through the air.

UCLA is also dealing with their share of injuries, and definitely come into this game more banged up than the Golden Bears. Tackle Conor McDermott injured his knee and is very questionable for this game, linebacker Deon Hollins missed practice for an undisclosed injury, and running back Nate Starks has a head injury. You’d have to think that the physical nature of the Stanford rushing attack has the Bruins defense feeling a little run over in general. The short turnaround after facing a team with that style of play is a bad disadvantage.


Final Veredict
In the end, I think the recent poor defensive play by UCLA, the short turnaround, and Cal coming off of a bye with fresh legs creates a matchup that favors the Golden Bears. The early College Football Odds movement towards Cal doesn’t scare me either, as I think the wrong team is favored in this one. That’s why I’m looking at the money line as the best value here and will be taking Cal as one of this week’s College Football Picks

College Football Picks: Cal +145 at 5Dimes

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