UCLA Betting Odds Preview
The UCLA Bruins played second fiddle in Los Angeles for a good decade or so behind USC's Trojans. But with Southern Cal's recent troubles, and one good year by the Bruins under new head coach Jim Mora, Jr., the situation has changed. UCLA is now holding its own in the recruiting battles, and it's been the Bruins playing for the conference championship the last two years, not the Trojans. This year UCLA goes in search of a third straight berth in the Pac-12 title game, although with at least three very tough conference road games, and improvements from the two Arizona squads, it won't come easy.
New head coach Mora stepped into a pretty good situation last year, with 15 starters back from a team that went to a bowl game the season previous. So maybe what the Bruins eventually accomplished shouldn’t be considered such a surprise. UCLA started 3-0, with an upset of Nebraska, then lost two of its next three games, to Oregon State and (inexplicably) Cal. But the Bruins then won five in a row, putting up some big offensive numbers, capped off by their first victory over the hated Trojans since 2006. But UCLA ended the season with three straight losses; with the South Division crown already in their pockets the Bruins lost to Stanford in the season finale, then had to go to the Farm for the Pac-12 championship game, where they out-gained the Cardinal and led by a touchdown in the fourth quarter but lost 27-24.
UCLA then got blown out by Baylor in the Holiday Bowl 49-26. So the Bruins finished 9-5 overall, 6-4 in conference play, and 8-6 ATS, with help from a +7 turnover ratio. This year UCLA returns 12 starters, second-fewest in the conference. Seven starters are back on offense, including dual-threat QB Brett Hundley (29/11 TD/INT as a red-shirt freshman last year), WR Shaquelle Evans, and four of the big boys up front. But that offensive line allowed 52 sacks last year, and they'll have to replace 1,700-yard rusher Jonathan Franklin. Only five starters come back on defense, none in the secondary.
So there are plenty of holes to fill on that side of the ball. The Bruins open this season with a home game against Nevada, which won't be a gimme, then visit Nebraska, giving the Huskers a shot at revenge. A few weeks later they begin Pac-12 play by visiting Utah, then host Cal. But they then have to play back-to-back at Stanford and at Oregon. UCLA then hosts Colorado, visits Arizona, hosts Washington and Arizona State, then finishes with the game that might decide the South Division; a battle with the Trojans at the Coliseum. The Bruins should be favored in four of their first five games, but might be dogged in at least four of their last six.
Pac-12 Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of August 11
Oregon State +1050
Arizona State +1100
Washington State +6000