Fresno State vs. UCLA College Football Odds & Pick: Can Bruins Keep Rolling In Pac-12 After Dark? (Sept. 18)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images. Pictured: Jake Haener.
Fresno State vs. UCLA Odds
|Fresno State Odds|
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Week 3 of the college football slate doesn’t lack for interesting contests with Alabama-Florida and Auburn-Penn State, but Fresno State making the trip to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA has real potential to be the game of the weekend.
The Bruins now finally appear to be what many fans hoped they would be when UCLA hired Chip Kelly, and they are now the college football team of Los Angeles.
Fresno State, meanwhile, despite being a non-Power Five team, has an offense capable of putting up points on even the best of programs in the country.
Can UCLA continue to build on the new-found program momentum, or do the Bulldogs have what it takes to play spoiler?
Fresno State arrives at its second game of the season against a Pac-12 opponent with a record of 2-1, but it’s the Bulldogs’ one loss that speaks volumes.
Kalen DeBoer’s Bulldogs held a fourth-quarter lead over Oregon in Week 1, before ultimately coming up just a tad short in a 31-24 loss. Fresno State actually outgained the Ducks in that game and flexed its offensive firepower that could prove problematic for UCLA.
If you haven’t heard of quarterback Jake Haener yet, he’s only the best quarterbacks in the Mountain West and will potentially find himself in an NFL camp one day.
The second-year starter has been lights out to start the season, connecting on 67 of 91 passes for 1,009 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s recorded nine Big Time Throws and only one Turnover Worthy Play, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Bulldogs’ Pass Success ranks 22nd in the nation, and Haener combines with receiver Jalen Cropper and running back Ronnie Rivers to form one of the nation’s most formidable Big Three with a passing offense that ranks fifth in the country, averaging 385 yards a game.
Rivers is one of Haener’s favorite passing targets out of the backfield. The fifth-year running back has already set program scoring records and averaged over 5.1 yards a carry in his first four years with the Bulldogs, but he’s yet to replicate that rushing success in 2021.
Through three games he’s averaging just 3.95 yards per carry behind an offensive line that is working in two new starters from last year. The offensive line is one clear weakness that the Bruins could expose, as Fresno State ranks 101st and 105th in Line Yards and Pass Blocking.
The offense earns the lion’s share of attention, but the defense is by no means mediocre.
This unit held an Oregon team in Autzen Stadium to just 360 yards, the same Ducks team that just dropped 500-plus on Ohio State in Columbus. Its 246.3 yards allowed per game is the 12th-best mark in the country.
Fresno’s defense has been better against the pass, but of primary concern against UCLA will be slowing the run. The Bulldogs rank 38th in Defensive Rushing Success but 15th in Havoc.
The Bulldogs have averaged just under 10 tackles for loss per game so far, sixth among FBS defenses. Forcing UCLA to put the game in Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s arm is paramount for Fresno State to have a shot of pulling off the upset.
What a time to be alive for UCLA fans as the Bruins are now the betting favorite out of the South to win the Pac-12 (+425).
It’s been a slow build for Chip Kelly now in his fourth season, but the Bruins arrive at this challenging matchup 2-0 with double-digit wins over Hawaii and LSU to start the season.
This is the year expectations have finally materialized for Chip Kelly’s run game in Westwood with the Bruins averaging 227 yards per game on the ground, spearheaded by transfer running back Zach Charbonnet.
Few Power Five teams have tried to set a tone with the running game quite like the Bruins have, with UCLA opting for a run on 70.5% of its plays (without adjusting for sacks) in its first two games.
And it’s one thing to run your team into the ground with no success, but Charbonnet and Brittain Brown have combined to average 6.75 yards per carry on first down, not putting the Bruins in obvious passing situations and easing the load for quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
DTR has completed just 52.8% of his passes through two games, but he’s only thrown one pick, and he threw for three touchdowns against LSU in Week 1.
UCLA has struggled in pass protection, ranking 121st in Pass Blocking and 100th with 3.0 sacks allowed per game. LSU was able to keep things close in the first half on the back of four, first-half sacks.
UCLA’s defense has looked revitalized in 2021 with a switch to a 4-2-5 defense after a subpar 2020 year. Most notably the Bruins have excelled stopping the run.
Against LSU, the Tigers only averaged 2.74 yards a carry and had a Stuff Rate of 52.8%. The Bruins rank fourth in Line Yards and 21st in Havoc, while struggling a bit more in coverage, ranking 67th by PFF.
It’s hard for any team to drastically slow Fresno’s aerial attack, but if UCLA can at least generate pressure on Haener to throw off his timing and completely eliminate Rivers as a running threat, the Bruins have a real chance at slowing Fresno’s scoring pace.
UCLA’s offense has averaged 41 points per game, so the defense just needs to be effective enough to hold serve, which it has more than demonstrated a capability to do so with its front seven.
Fresno State vs. UCLA Matchup Analysis
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Fresno State Offense vs. UCLA Defense
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Fresno State vs. UCLA Betting Pick
The world is finally UCLA’s oyster with Southern Cal in a state of pandemonium and the Bruins possessing a clear path to winning the Pac-12 South. What could go wrong?
I continue to be impressed with Fresno State and Jake Haener, and that 35-28 loss to Oregon looks even better after the Ducks dispatched Ohio State, while UCLA’s 11-point home win against a hurricane-displaced LSU program is holding up less and less as each week rolls on.
I fully acknowledge that Collin Wilson projects this to be UCLA by 14.5, but I’ve watched close to every snap of Fresno State this year, and it is a team at the very least capable of keeping this thing within single digits.
And let me deliver these three delicious nuggets:
- Fresno State is an FBS best 38-20-2 against the spread (ATS) since 2016
- The Bulldogs are 13-3-1 ATS as underdogs since 2017
- Fresno State is 5-0 ATS vs. Pac-12 teams since 2017
This line opened as UCLA (-10), and I expect the public will continue steaming the Bruins’ number until kickoff.
I’ll wait until closer to kick to lock in my bet with an even better number for the Bulldogs, but I’d be comfortable betting Fresno State where the line currently stands and may even sprinkle a little on the Bulldogs ML +340.
Pick: Fresno State ATS Right Before Kick
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