UCLA Betting Odds Preview
It hasn't taken long for head coach Jim Mora Jr. to return UCLA to college football power status. Two years ago Mora took a 6-8 team to 9-5, with a tough loss in the Pac-12 championship game. And last year the Bruins won 10 games for the first time since 2005.
But one thing this team hasn't been able to do under Mora is beat Stanford or Oregon. And to win the Pac-12 and make a run to this year's four-team College Football Playoff, UCLA will have to, at the very least, split its games with those two conference powers. But with most of the team back, led by a Heisman candidate at quarterback, that seems possible.
UCLA Odds to Win Pac-12: 11/4 at Bovada
UCLA Odds to Win College Football Championship: 14/1 at Bovada
UCLA Regular Season Win Total: 9.5 at Bovada
UCLA Betting Props: Brett Hundley to Win Heisman 14/1 at Bovada
UCLA began last season 5-0, including a convincing win at Nebraska. But a banged-up Bruins squad then lost a tough game at Stanford, then lost a game at Oregon that was tied late in the third quarter. A few weeks later, with the Pac-12 South on the line, UCLA fell at home to Arizona State. The Bruins finished with a second consecutive victory over rival USC, then toasted Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl, but they must have gone into the offseason thinking about what could have been. Or maybe, what could be.
UCLA went 9-4 ATS last year, winning four games outright as underdogs on the betting line. So the Bruins are now 19-8 SU and 17-10 ATS during the Mora/Brett Hundley era.
This year UCLA returns 17 starters, most in the Pac-12. Nine starters are back on an offense that averaged 448 yards per game last year, led by Hundley (who led the team in rushing) and four along the offensive line. And eight starters are back on defense, including LB Myles Jack (Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year) and the entire secondary. So the cupboard is full, as this program attempts to break into the big-time this season.
Last year UCLA lost back-to-back road games at Stanford and Oregon; this year the Bruins get both the Cardinal and Ducks at home. The Bruins open with a cross-country trip to Virginia, and a couple weeks later play Texas in Arlington. They then begin Pac-12 play with a revenge match at Arizona State. But the rest of the road slate is very manageable, and they even get the Trojans in the Rose Bowl. All in all, UCLA couldn't ask for too much more.
Pac-12 Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5
Arizona State 12/1
Oregon State 33/1
Washington State 50/1
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