Free Expert NCAA Football Picks: UCLA Bruins at Arizona State Sun Devils Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/24/2014
UCLA Bruins at Arizona State Sun Devils, Thursday Sept. 25, 10 p.m. ET
This game, which is the latest incarnation of what has become a pretty good rivalry recently, was supposed to be a showdown between highly-touted and talented quarterbacks. It has not turned out that way. Taylor Kelly of the Sun Devils is injured and will definitely be missing the game. UCLA's Brett Hundley was also injured in the last outing, but the Bruins are not being nearly as forthcoming as Arizona State is.
Mike Bercovici will be making his first start in place of Kelly. He has thrown only four passes, but in a strange twist UCLA will have some familiarity with him - offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone recruited Bercovici when he was an assistant at Arizona State. If Hundley was unable to go - though my gut says he'll be ready, and Arizona State is surely preparing to face the starter - then Jerry Neuheisel would likely get the start. He was heroic in relief when Hundley was injured, leading the team to victory over the Longhorns.
UCLA at Arizona State Betting Storylines
The Bruins are 3-0, but they just haven't been very good this year. They are 0-3 ATS and have been very lucky not to lose - more than once. They narrowly avoided an upset at Virginia in the opener. They made Memphis look far better than they really are while playing in L.A.. Then they only barely escaped in Dallas against Texas. They are loaded with talent and had massive expectations coming into the season. They have just not looked committed or focused like they should be - as if they are trusting to escape because of talent over execution.
The one issue that extends beyond just the mindset, though, is UCLA's offensive line. They have allowed 11 sacks already and have neither protected their quarterback well nor keyed a great running game - though they ran reasonably well against Texas. This sets up a significant matchup for this game. Arizona State loves to blitz, and they know how effective it can be against the Bruins - they got to the QB nine times in the game last year.
Arizona State has not been tested in a real way this year - they have played and beaten up on Weber State, New Mexico and Colorado. That means we don't really know much about where they are at this point in the season. That is especially a concern because they lost nine starters on defense from last season and are facing an offense - even without Hundley - that has the potential to be dramatically more explosive than anything they have seen. It could be that the team has gained too much confidence from their early success, or perhaps the virtual preseason leading into this game has allowed them to get comfortable and ease into their new roles. In other words, evaluating the Arizona State defense requires a leap of faith here. We are forced to rely on the tendencies of the coaching staff more than would be ideal.
UCLA Bruins at Arizona State Sun Devils Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with UCLA favored by 5.5 points, and that line has since moved down to four. Arizona State has drawn a small majority of the bets on the game, so the movement makes sense. The total has been stable at 59.5 points.
The Bruins are 8-3 ATS in the last 11 meetings between the teams. The home team is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings. The last four games have gone "over" the total. The Bruins have gone "under" the total in their last eight road games.
UCLA Bruins at Arizona State Sun Devils Expert Predictions and Picks
The quarterbacks, and the uncertainty they cause, make this a very tough game to handicap. Still, I really don't like how the Bruins have been playing, and their offensive line concerns me. Giving the Sun Devils more than a field goal at home just isn't enough respect for this team. They have faith in Bercovici, and he has been around the program for a long time. The home team is the bet here.
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