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College Football Predictions: Arizona (+3.5) vs UCLA (-3.5) Over – Under 71
Tonight’s late night tilt between the Arizona Wildcats and UCLA Bruins is a huge game for the Pac-12 South, as the winner will survive in the race, and the loser will be done. With USC facing Oregon this week, look for the winner of the South to be either Arizona, Arizona State, or UCLA. Both teams come off impressive victories last week, Arizona with a 39-36 upset of USC, and UCLA with a 45-43 road victory at Arizona State. A game which they led by 9 with 9 minutes left to play, and had to use a last second FG to win. Tonight’s game though is a classic Vegas overreaction, as Arizona finds themselves only 3.5 point dogs on the road following their victory.
The key to Arizona, as well documented this season, is their passing offense, led by Matt Scott. At 354.4 yards per game through the air they bring the #4 ranked passing offense in college football, as well as the #4 overall offense in all of college football at 553.6 YPG. However, they leave a lot of points on the field, averaging 39.1 PPG, good enough for 20th in college football as they struggled in the red zone, scoring just 74.5% of the time (38/51). This week, question marks will surround Matt Scott. While he personally denies suffering a concussion during two hard 4th quarter helmet hits, he was spotted vomitting on the sidelines, and was sensitive to press lights during a press conference. Scott may claim he did not suffer a concussion, but at 27/50, he had his second lowest completion percentage of the season. He certainly did not look like himself throughout the game, concussion or not. Which makes one wonder if he may have actually been feeling effects from a hit earlier in the game that compounded with the hits later. Despite the concussion protection of today’s game, Rich Rodriguez has been rumored in the past for pushing the physical health of his players. Arizona does bring an offense that gains 167.5 yards per game on the ground, led by Ka’Deem Carey with 120.1 YPG. Arizona has benefited from key players contributing for injuries on their offensive line. However, they face Anthony Barr, one of the best LBs they will have faced, who leads UCLA with 8 1/2 sacks. As a team, UCLA averages 3.5 sacks per game. If Scott is indeed unhealthy, it will surprising that he will finish the game. Should Scott not be able to play through the game, it will be a tough ask of Junior B.J. Denker who has only played in mop up minutes to lead the Wildcats to victory in a soldout, hostile environment on homecoming day. UCLA has forced 1.5 interceptions per game, if Scott is not sharp tonight, look for the Bruins to force at least two.
UCLA brings a similarly high octane Pac-12 offense. They bring the #12 ranked offense at 502.9 YPG. They bring a more balanced offense, gaining 286.9 yards through the air and 216 yards on the ground. However, like Arizona, they too struggle in the red zone, scoring on 31/38 red zone drives (81.5%) and TDs on only 55.2% of drives (21/38). In fact, many UCLA fans breathed a sigh of relief when Ka’imi Fairbairn made his 33 yard winner last week. Fairbairn has been accurate when close going 10/12 from 35 or less, but he is 0/3 from 40 or more with a season long of 35. With Arizona having won the last five, UCLA will have revenge on their mind tonight. They will be looking for redemption from last season’s loss which saw a team lose their composure in a 48-12 loss, leading to a bench clearing fight started by the Bruins. Johnathan Franklin will look to set the all-time UCLA career rushing mark this season against Arizona’s 110th ranked defense. Freshman QB and second leading rusher, Brett Hundley will look to add to the Bruins’ offense attack. Hundley showed composure in leading the Bruins on their game winning drive, and has not looked like a Freshman most of the season. He should have another great game at home, where he has been slightly better, with all three of his 300 yard passing performances coming at home. Most impressive has been his performance following UCLA’s loss to the Cal Bears where he threw 4 interceptions. Since that game he has thrown for 5 TDs with just one pick. Arizona defense is small and quick, and hasn’t show an ability to make stops. Tonight should be no different.
Tonight marks the first time UCLA is favored in 5 games. Which is important, as the favorite is 7-2 ATS in the last 9 series games. At home the Bruins play teams with winning records well, and are 12-3 ATS against winning teams. Anyone remember their impressive performance against Nebraska? Arizona may be 5-0 in the last 5 games, but tonight is the end of their streak. While, the over might look sexy tonight as both teams move the ball, and struggle to stop it, red zone inefficiency and Scott’s health make this a game to pass the total on. Take the Bruins tonight, and give the points.
Pick: UCLA -3.5