coleryan Posts:14502 Followers:21
On 09/29/2013 11:24 AM in NCAA Football

UCLA Bruins at Utah Utes: Preview and Pick

UCLA Bruins at Utah Utes: Preview and Pick

The Thursday night football college football schedule will feature the Pac 12 conference this week. The UCLA Bruins will look to maintain their unblemished record as they travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes who are fresh off a win against their rivals, the BYU Cougars.

UCLA Bruins at Utah Utes Odds
The college football odds for this game opened up with the Bruins as road favorites. The bruins opened up as (-3) point favorites and as expected the early money and wagering is coming in on the Bruins at 88%. The Utes are a lively home dog although they are not getting any love from the public early wagering. This line can now be found at (-3.5) at most of the top rated online sportsbooks.

This is a very unique game because both teams enter this game off a bye week. It is highly unusual to have a bye week this early in the season, but it is very useful to both squads.

The Utes have had less than two weeks to prepare for the toughest 4-week stretch they’ve ever faced. The gamut starts with the game this week against No. 13 UCLA, followed by a visit from No. 5 Stanford, then road trips to Arizona and USC. It is a daunting schedule, particularly for a team that has started 0-4 in league play in each of the last two seasons. The Bruins welcomed the bye week with such a young team.

The continuity on the staff should allow for improvement and growth. It's been the first time in seemingly a decade where UCLA returned both the offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator in the same season. Without constant coaching changes, the units can better gel and become more advanced in the said schemes being employed.

Secondly, UCLA played 15 true freshmen in the contest. The high amount of freshmen played shows credence to the notion that the class is incredibly talented.

The latest college football betting trends reveal some interesting betting angles for this game. The total has gone over in 4 of UCLA's last 5 games on the road and the total has gone over in 6 of Utah's last 7 games at home. Utah is 18-7 straight up in its last 25 games at home and the Bruins are just 6-13 straight up in its last 19 games on the road.

UCLA Bruins at Utah Utes Pick
With plenty of time before kickoff we will wait for more information to come in before we select a side on this contest. Make sure to check back on the day of the game to see who we select as our winner for this big game.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14503 Followers:21
09/30/2013 02:30 PM

After giving the Utes a couple of days off, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said it was good to get back on the field last Thursday. He said the team showed a lot of energy, had their legs back, and got off to a good start when it came to preparing for this week’s game against 12th-ranked UCLA.

The initial bye week practice, Whittingham explained, featured a lot of install and game planning. He said the Bruins are a really good football team — athletic, well-coached and tearing it up on offense.

“They’re doing a great job,” Whittingham said. “They’re solid all across the board.”

Led by sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley, UCLA (3-0) is averaging 52.7 points and 614.3 yards of total offense per game — ranking third and fourth in the nation, respectively, in each category — following victories over Nevada (58-20), Nebraska (41-21) and New Mexico State (59-13).

Wide receivers Shaquelle Evans and Devin Fuller have a combined 25 catches and running back Jordan James has already amassed 424 yards.

“I think this will be another challenge just like Oregon State because they spread the ball out a lot,” said Utah strong safety Michael Walker. “I think us, as DBs, are going to take this game personal to step up and play good like we did in the BYU game.”

Unlike Taysom Hill of the Cougars, though, the Utes will be facing more of a dual-threat quarterback in Hundley. He enters the game with 848 yards passing (completing 61 of 92 throws with eight touchdowns and three interceptions) and 157 yards rushing.

Whittingham considers Hundley more of a hybrid between Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion.

“He throws the ball very efficiently and he moves around pretty darn good — where Mannion is a pure pocket guy and Chuckie is a guy who really likes to get out and go with the run aspect,” Whittingham said. “Hundley can do both and he’s done both very well this year so far.”

UCLA’s offense is pretty balanced. The Bruins are 12th in the nation with 330 yards passing per game and 13th in rushing at 284.3.

The big test, however, will come against the Utes' secondary. Utah’s pass defense is giving up more than 288 yards per game, ranking 11th in the Pac-12.

Although Whittingham said they’ve taken strides forward, he acknowledged UCLA will present “a big challenge for them.”

On the flip side, Utah quarterback Travis Wilson and the offense faces a UCLA defense that is ranked fifth in the conference against the pass — allowing 177 yards per game. Linebackers Eric Kendricks (26 tackles) and Anthony Barr (18 tackles, three forced fumbles) and defensive end Keenan Graham (three sacks) are players of note.

“They’re definitely a really good defense. They have some great coaches over there. They have a good scheme,” Wilson said. “On offense, we’ve just got to make sure we come prepared and make sure we do better on our third downs than we did from last game.”

The Utes converted on just 1 of 14 third-down situations in their 20-13 win at BYU on Sept. 21. It’s an obvious area of emphasis for improvement.

“We just need to make sure we do our part on offense and make sure we correct everything from last game,” Wilson said.

There’s a lot riding on it for Utah. After opening their first two Pac-12 seasons with four straight conference losses, the Utes are already off to an 0-1 start with the 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State on Sept. 14.

“A loss in our first conference game is not the way we wanted to start, so we’ve just got to make sure that we really take this game seriously and really come out with our A game,” Wilson said.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14503 Followers:21
10/01/2013 03:36 PM

UCLA is 3-0 SUATS to start the 2013 campaign, as it comes off a bye week after picking up a 59-13 victory over New Mexico State as 44-point home favorites on Sept. 21, while winning the statistical battle by 173-plus years in each of those contests. The Bruins hold a 9-2 all-time advantage in this series, but both losses have come in Salt Lake City, which can’t be ignored when making your college football betting picks Thursday night. Offensively, the team paces the nation in third down conversion percentage, while sitting second in racking up 614.3 yards per game of offense. UCLA is 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS as road favorites the last two-plus seasons, with the OVER going 3-1 in that situation.

The Bruins are aiming to win their first four games of the season for the first time since 2005, while improving second-year head coach Jim Mora to 6-2 in true road contests. In the second half of games this season, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley has completed 26 of 33 passes for 369 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. The team has been at its best in the third quarter—outscoring foes by a 62-0 margin in that situation. Defensively, the aim is to limit this week’s opponent to under 100 rushing yards, as the program has won 12 of its last 13 games when accomplishing that task.

Utah returns to Pac-12 Conference play, as it also enjoyed time off after a 20-13 victory over in-state rival BYU as seven-point road underdogs on Sept. 21, while going UNDER the betting total of 61.5. The Utes are 6-2 when coming off a regular-season bye under Kyle Whittingham, with both losses coming against conference foes. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the program is 0-3 against ranked opponents, which is important to consider when looking over the college football odds page. Utah is 6-7 SU and 8-5 ATS as underdogs the last two-plus seasons, with the UNDER going 7-4-2 in that situation.

The Utes are led offensively by sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns against the Cougars. He is also the school’s second-leading rusher this season, with 32 carries for 251 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore running Bubba Poole leads the way in that particular category, with 58 carries and averaging 76.0 rushing yards per game.

Sports bettors will likely back the Utes due to their 9-3 ATS mark following a bye week.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14503 Followers:21
10/01/2013 03:37 PM

Utah’s bye week was a short one because they have a Thursday game following the break but Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was still excited about the amount of work his team was able to do.

The Utes took only Tuesday and Wednesday of last week off before starting preparations for Thursday’s game against the Bruins.

"I thought we made the most of it and we got a lot done," he said.

The Utes were able to recover from some of the minor injuries sustained in the 20-13 win over BYU and started their preparations for UCLA.

The biggest point of emphasis is improving the third down efforts, where Utah is just 19 of 54, Whittingham said.

"That is our biggest negative and it has to improve," he said.

Whittingham continues to be happy with the team’s attitude. The Utes had some of their best practices in the week leading up to the BYU game and showed the same effort during the recent practices.

"There is an air of confidence about the team," Whittingham said. "We need to get things rolling in the Pac-12 and we feel we’ve made some big steps as to who we are."

Defensive end Nate Orchard said the team’s effort is a product of not just the team leaders’ influence but everyone on the team.

"Everyone has to buy into what we have going on and they have," he said.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14503 Followers:21
10/01/2013 03:38 PM

When it comes to quarterbacks, Utah and 12th-ranked UCLA have a lot in common. Starters Travis Wilson and Brett Hundley bring a lot of similarities into Thursday night’s Pac-12 showdown at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

“There’s a real good comparison between those two guys and it’s going to be an intriguing matchup — the quarterbacks going against each other head to head,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “What Travis brings to the table and makes him difficult to defend, Hundley does the same thing for the Bruins.”

Whittingham noted that the sophomores (both born in 1993) have similar pass efficiency numbers and both run the ball well.

Entering this week’s game, Wilson has a pass efficiency rating of 166.6, which ranks third in the Pac-12. Hundley is fourth at 165.9. They’re also third and fourth in total offense, with Wilson holding a 342.3 to 335 yards per game edge over Hundley.

However, when it comes to passing yards per game, Hundley holds a 282.7 to 279.5 advantage over Wilson — putting them sixth and seventh, respectively, in the conference. Wilson holds the upper hand in rushing, averaging 62.7 yards per game compared to 52.3 for Hundley.

“They’re both mobile quarterbacks, very versatile,” said Utah defensive end Nate Orchard. “They can throw on the run and do all these amazing things. The nature of the profession right now is not very patient,” he said. “There’s a lot of money at stake. It’s big business.”

Whittingham also noted that Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni was let go after last weekend’s games. “That’s how it is. There’s no change in it,” Whittingham said. “I don’t think there’s anybody that doesn’t want to win in the worst way and is far more concerned with that than what’s going on externally.

“And so all you do is just do the best job you can,” he continued. “And the other stuff that is out of your control you don’t really worry about.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14503 Followers:21
10/02/2013 01:51 PM

When it comes to Pac-12 play, Rice-Eccles Stadium hasn’t been much of a home-field advantage for the Utah Utes. Since joining the conference in 2011, they’re just 4-6 in league games up on the hill.

“There's a dramatic difference in a lot of the talent levels of the teams that have come in here,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “I will say our lack of home-field advantage is not because of lack of fan support.”

Whittingham noted that the fans have been outstanding and fill up the stadium each game. Thursday’s contest against UCLA is expected to be the 22nd consecutive sellout at the 45,017-seat facility.

“They're loud. It's a great environment. We can't thank the fans enough for the support they've given us over the last several years,” Whittingham said.

The Pac-12 struggles at home, Whittingham explained, is attributed to a different bottom line.

“We have a bunch of high-quality, top-25-type teams coming through here on a regular basis, and so that's been the biggest reason for that,” he said.

In 2011, Utah dropped Pac-12 home games to Washington (31-14), Arizona State (35-14) and Colorado (17-14). In 2012, the Utes fell to USC (38-28) and Arizona (34-24).

This season, Oregon State became the sixth Pac-12 team to win at Rice-Eccles Stadium since Utah was admitted into the conference. The Beavers edged the Utes 51-48 in overtime.

“The last couple of the years the Pac-12 has had great teams top to bottom and you can lose any Saturday because of the talent pool,” said senior defensive end Trevor Reilly. “You have to give credit to the opponent.”

Even so, Reilly still believes Utah has a home-field advantage. He noted that variables like not having a quarterback start and finish a season since joining the conference has been a factor.

Reilly is hopeful that the program’s assimilation to the Pac-12 and the play of quarterback Travis Wilson will help turn the tide.

“The competition has definitely risen from the Mountain West,” Wilson said. “... We’ve got to make sure that we make home games more of an advantage for us.”

Wilson added that it really just comes down to the team.

“We’ve just got to make sure that we play how we have been playing,” he said. “Our crowd has been great for the home games.”

After opening Pac-12 play with four consecutive losses the past two seasons, there’s a sense of urgency to capitalize on the schedule. Utah hosts Stanford next week before road games at Arizona and USC.

Reilly said it has more to do with the team’s goal of winning the Pac-12 South than avoiding another 0-4 start. Even so, the Utes are determined to re-establish Rice-Eccles Stadium as a tough place to play.

“Last year I definitely think we had a lot of opportunities to win at home and we just didn’t really capitalize on them,” said Wilson, who was especially displeased with how Utah failed to hold on after a quick start against USC.

Offensive lineman Junior Salt noted that nothing comes easy in the Pac-12.

“For the past couple of years I think we’ve just hurt ourselves,” he said. “There were many games that I felt that we could have won.”

Defensive end Nate Orchard has similar thoughts.

“There are so many teams that are good. It’s different every week and everyone has to come prepared,” he said. “I think there’s weeks where we didn’t do what we needed to do and guys not doing their assignments. So if we can get it together this week, I think we’ll get it.”

As for the 4-6 Pac-12 mark at home, Orchard admits that it’s very un-Utah-like.

“But what can you do about it?” he continued. “You just learn from it and keep moving forward.”

And in that regard, the junior believes the Utes are making progress.

Salt agrees.

“We’re a much better team than we have been,” he said before turning his focus to the situation at hand. “We’re the underdogs. So we have a lot to prove. It just keeps us hungry.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14503 Followers:21
10/02/2013 01:52 PM

The last two times Utah played UCLA at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Utes held the Bruins to a pair of field goals in each game, a grand total of 12 points, while scoring 75 themselves.

In both cases, the Utes were underdogs, which will be the case again Thursday night (8 p.m.) when the No. 12-ranked Bruins pay a visit to Rice-Eccles.

Coach Kyle Whittingham would love to hold the Bruins to six points again but knows it will be next to impossible against a potent offense that ranks No. 2 in the nation in total offense at 614 yards per game and No. 3 in scoring at 52.7 points per game.

“We're definitely taking steps forward in a lot of areas,’’ said Whittingham of his defense, which gave up 51 points to Oregon State in its previous Pac-12 game.

In each of the previous Utah-UCLA games in Salt Lake, in 2007 and 2011, the Bruins could only manage six points each time as the Utes won 44-6 behind Tommy Grady in ’07 and 31-6 behind the running of John White on a snowy night in November 2011.

GETTING BETTER: One of the places the Utes improved against BYU was in the secondary, which came up with an interception and helped force 30 incompletions.

“I think we've made strides,’’ Whittingham said. “We've got four or five guys that we feel comfortable with right now. The group has really separated itself.’’

Keith McGill and Davion Orphey are the starting cornerbacks, while senior Mike Honeycutt, who had a great game against BYU, is the starting nickelback. Redshirt freshmen Reggie Porter is also seeing a lot of minutes in the secondary.

Junior Eric Rowe and senior Michael Walker are solid as the starters at safety.

The Utes still rank near the bottom of the Pac-12 in passing efficiency (10th) and passing yards defense (11th).

UTE NOTES: UCLA leads the series with a Utah 9-2 advantage. The other three games with UCLA in Salt Lake were all relatively low-scoring affairs as the Bruins won 16-9 in 1960, 14-11 in 1962 and 27-14 in 1974. … Thursday’s game is the sixth annual “blackout game” where fans are encouraged to wear all black. … Some bleacher seats, as well as standing-room-only tickets, are still available for the UCLA game. Contact the ticket office at utahutes.com or by calling 801-581-UTIX. … Whittingham is looking for career win No. 75 this week. He is currently 74-33 in his ninth season. … Punter Tom Hackett leads the Pac-12 in punt average at 43.4 yards per punt and is tied for the league lead in punts inside the 20-yard line with nine

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14503 Followers:21
10/02/2013 01:54 PM

UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone knows what his opposite number, Utah coordinator Dennis Erickson, will throw at the Bruins on Thursday. He has a copy of those schemes.

"I learned my football from Dennis Erickson," Mazzone said. "Most of the concepts I really believe in, I learned from him. He was the father of these one-back offenses. He loves the vertical passing game."

Mazzone was Erickson's offensive coordinator at Oregon State in 2002 and Arizona State in 2010 and 2011. What he sees in Salt Lake City is a perfect partnership between Erickson and Utah quarterback Travis Wilson.

Wilson has passed for 1,118 yards in four games. He has burned teams with deep throws, particularly to receiver Des Anderson, who is averaging 22.4 yards per catch.

"I think that was a great fit," Mazzone said. "He is Dennis' type of quarterback. He can sit back there in the pocket and get the ball out quickly."

At 6 feet 6, Wilson presents a different look to the Bruins.

"He throws the ball at a higher level," UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt said. "He can throw top shelf to a receiver. We have a tall pass rush, but he can throw it right over that easy."

Wilson's legs are just as dangerous. His lanky size gives him a deceptive look as a runner. He has 251 yards rushing. He had 142 yards in 13 carries, scoring three touchdowns, against Oregon State

"He's a scrambler, a different kind of runner," Zumwalt said. "He'll probably read this and be all hurt, but he's not the most athletic guy. He can still run. He can make guys miss."

Wilson, who played at San Clemente High, has accounted for 14 of Utah's 21 touchdowns — nine passing, five running.

"Efficient is what they are," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "They may not score 60, 70 points, some of these crazy numbers. But they take care of the football. They run well. They don't put themselves in bad positions."

Homecoming

Xavier Su'a-Filo saw one of UCLA's greatest debacles and still signed up to come to Westwood. The Bruins guard was a senior at Timpview High in Provo, Utah, when the Bruins came to town in 2008.

What he witnessed was a Brigham Young football highlight show. The Cougars rolled to a 59-0 victory, the Bruins' worst defeat since losing to USC, 76-0, in 1929.

"All I remember was UCLA losing," Su'a-Filo said. "It didn't affect my decision. I loved UCLA."

Su'a-Filo goes back to Utah as a player for the first time Thursday. He was on a Mormon mission and missed the Bruins' 31-6 loss at Utah in 2011.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14503 Followers:21
10/02/2013 06:55 PM

I am not big on taking a road favorite in a lone game on national television, but the Utes have a weak secondary. UCLA can expose that and win big off a bye with plenty of time to prepare.

Pick: Bruins -5.5

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0