UCLA Bruins at Arizona Wildcats, Saturday Sept.26, 8 p.m. ET
I have a good friend who is a lifelong Bruins fan. Poor bastard. After hearing that Myles Jack had been lost for the year this week - the third defensive star to go down for the season - I texted to ask him if losing three starters was a bad thing. I can't print his response. This team just seems cursed. Every time they seem to have turned a corner, they run into another wall. I fully expect Josh Rosen to have an arm fall off this week - it's the next logical step in the torture of UCLA fans.
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Losing Jack is undoubtedly significant. The linebacker led the team in tackles last year and had already contributed an offensive touchdown this year. The good news, though, is that the team already has good experience this season with overcoming injuries on defense. They also get Ishmael Adams back - he was suspended for beating up an Uber driver but was reinstated this week after charges were dropped. While UCLA is coping with loss, Arizona could be getting some relief. Their best defensive player, Scooby Wright III, looked like he was out for a long time after getting injured early. He returned to practice this week, though, and could be able to play. He's a real leader and a great player, and would be a factor here - even if he isn't at full strength.
UCLA at Arizona Betting Storylines
It shapes up as a heck of a QB battle here. Josh Rosen will be making his fourth career start. He was nearly flawless in his debut against Virginia. Since then he has looked much more like the raw freshman he is. His upside is to the moon, though, and he has still been solid despite his struggles. On the other side is Anu Solomon, a player who doesn't get as much credit as he deserves. This year he is completing more than 68 percent of his passes for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns without a pick. After a strong redshirt freshman season, he has taken a big leap forward this year and is in full command of his offense. Two very talented quarterbacks - one facing a very beaten up defense and the other facing a defense that is a bit of an afterthought. There is a massive potential for scoring here. Arizona games are rarely boring, and this isn't going to be an exception. As good as the matchup at QB is, though, it just serves as an appetizer for the main course - the showdowns the next couple of years when these two are really in their primes.
There is also one heck of a showdown at running back. UCLA's Paul Perkins has carried 58 times for 429 yards - and impressive 7.4 yards per carry. He has scored three times. Arizona's Nick Wilson has been every bit as good - 62 carries at seven yards per carry is 434 yards, and he has scored five times. Both teams use their run heavily to set up the pass, and you can be sure that that will factor strongly into game-planning for both sides. If one player is able to get going faster, then that could have a big impact on the flow of the game. Last year UCLA was dramatically more effective on the ground than Arizona was. Neither QB - Solomon for Arizona and Brett Hundley for UCLA - had a huge day, so the running edge for the Bruins was a big reason why they won by 10 points.
UCLA at Arizona Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with UCLA favored by three points, and they can now be found at -3.5at BetOnline, and at that level or three points anywhere else. A solid majority of bets have been on the Wildcats, so it would be a surprise to see the line move too significantly from where it is. If it does move then it is a sign that something has changed in the eyes of oddsmakers and sharp bettors. The total sits at 66 points.
The favorites are 7-1 ATS in the last eight meetings between these squads. The Bruins are 1-5 ATS in their last six at Arizona. The home team is 9-3 ATS in the last 12 matchups. The Wildcats have gone "over" the total in their last four games overall, while the Bruins have gone "under" in their last six.
UCLA at Arizona Predictions and Picks
A home underdog with a reckless, fearless coach with nothing to lose. A seasoned quarterback playing well. A running back playing great, lining up against a defense short of key starters. A rabid crowd. A true freshman quarterback who has not been making great decisions the last two weeks. The Bruins are a good team, but they are not flawless, and they could be vulnerable here in a tough place to play. The game is wide-open, but the value is in taking the points and the home team - especially if you can take the extra hook and go for 3.5 points.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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