2021 College Football Odds, Pick & Prediction for LSU vs. UCLA: How to Bet Pac-12, SEC Showdown (September 4)
Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
- LSU makes the trip west to the Rose Bowl to kick off its season against UCLA.
- The Bruins already picked up a win in Week 0 and have never looked better under Chip Kelly.
- Check out Collin Wilson's full betting guide with odds, picks, and predictions for the game.
LSU vs. UCLA Odds
UCLA could not have kicked off the 2021 season any better, destroying Hawai’i in Week 0.
The Bruins flexed not only a strong rush attack, but a defense that consistently played behind the line of scrimmage.
An easy cover in Chip Kelly’s opener was highlighted by three touchdowns from Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet, a 52% Stuff Rate from the defense, and most importantly, zero turnovers.
Although the Warriors had plenty of question marks on the field and a first-time offensive coordinator, UCLA will take those positive results into a showdown with LSU.
The Bruins’ opposition has dealt with plenty of hurdles before the season even started. LSU will have two new coordinators with Jake Peetz calling offensive plays and Daronte Jones getting an assist from head coach Ed Orgeron.
Within the walls of the LSU program, the football team is looking to recapture the 2019 season, while outside of the program, Hurricane Ida displaced players and staff.
The focus for LSU players will be questionable on an extended road trip, but the Bruins have made plans to pack the Rose Bowl after disappointing attendance against Hawai’i.
The UCLA athletic department has offered complimentary tickets and discount offers to alumni as the Tigers come to Pasadena after three practice days in Houston.
With a kickoff scheduled just before sunset, there will be plenty of New Year’s Six vibes in this head-to-head.
The days of Joe Burrow at quarterback and Joe Brady as passing game coordinator feel longer than just 20 months ago.
The Tigers ended 2020 with a 5-5 record after embarrassing double-digit losses in the opener to Mississippi State and later to Alabama. Bo Pelini quickly left Baton Rouge after a short stint as defensive coordinator, while Steve Ensminger retired as offensive coordinator.
Plenty of numbers flatlined last season as the offense regressed to outside the top 50 in Success Rate with a Finishing Drives rank of 95th.
The defense fell outside the top 100 in Success Rate and consistently posted the worst tackling grades in FBS.
New coordinators on both sides of the ball are looking for 2019 success by returning to the formula that won a National Championship.
Serving as a defensive assistant to the UCLA team in 2007, Peetz has come a long way in his journey to being the offensive coordinator for LSU. After hopping around the NFL as a quarterbacks coach, the Nebraska alum spent one season on Joe Brady’s Carolina Panthers staff in 2020.
Peetz has made it clear that replicating the Brady scheme and tempo is the goal, along with flipping tables to get players’ attention.
The offense will feature Max Johnson under center after he spent the better part of training camp getting dominated by the defense in scrimmages.
In two starts last season, Johnson had four big-time throws and five turnover-worthy plays. Those numbers paint a better picture of the quarterback’s struggle with accuracy and decision-making in a crowded pocket outside of his eight touchdowns to just one interception.
Johnson’s arm strength has been in question with an offensive line that has shuffled through the month of August.
As for the skill positions, Kayshon Boutte is one of the best targets in the country but has little support from other skill positions. Five-star tight end Arik Gilbert has moved on from LSU, while freshman standout Malik Nabers will sit out UCLA game with injury.
If Peetz wants to replicate 2019, then the role of Clyde Edwards-Helaire must be filled by one of the candidates in the backfield. John Emery Jr. does have the elusiveness after posting 20 missed tackles in 76 rushing attempts.
Emery will be joined by Tyron Davis-Price in providing success in standard downs, as each back averaged over three yards after contact.
If Peetz is to replicate the 2019 LSU offense, the Tigers will remain primarily in 11 personnel with a pass rate of 64% that contains motion over 80% of snaps.
If Johnson is unable to move the chains, look for Orgeron to move on with true freshman Garrett Nussmeier under center.
The LSU defense could not have started 2020 out any worse against the Air Raid of Mississippi State, as Bo Pelini elected to stay in man coverage rather than rushing three and dropping eight.
The former Nebraska head coach was asked to simplify the defense early in the season, as issues with pre-snap alignment and tackling persisted. Pelini was fired despite fielding some of the best recruiting talent in the nation.
Derek Stingley Jr: Highest coverage grade among returning CBs (91.9) 🔒
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 3, 2021
Jones is expected to run a simplified 4-3 defense to decrease the number of explosive plays from opposing offenses. An entire rotation of linebackers has been solid through camp that even Clemson standout transfer Mike Jones Jr. may not have much of a role in defending the rush.
LSU fields two of the best cornerbacks in the country in Derek Stingley and Eli Ricks, but the handicap against UCLA comes down to the defensive line.
Both defensive ends, Ali Gaye and Andre Anthony, played 10 games and over 450 snaps last season. Gaye has consistent issues setting contain at the edge position and recorded one of the highest missed tackles rates a season ago. At the other edge position, Anthony struggles in the pass rush, generating just 16 hurries in 276 opponent passing attempts.
With a season-ending injury to Glen Logan, Maason Smith and Neil Farrell will receive duties at defensive tackle. Smith was one of the most sought-after recruits and has the size as a true freshman to keep gap integrity. Farrell played over 300 snaps last season, struggling with missed tackles.
If there are two areas UCLA may attack, Farrell and Gaye may be targeted all evening on the ground.
Defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro surely had a bit of relief after the Hawai’i numbers served as redemption to a subpar 2020 season.
The Bruins posted a rank of 121st in Defensive Rushing Success Rate and 113th in tackling last season, but the box score against the Warriors indicates massive improvement.
UCLA stuffed Hawai’i on 10-of-19 rushing attempts while averaging 2.2 yards per play on passing downs.
With a spread closing north of -17, the UCLA defense generated two turnovers and allowed just 1.8 points on drives that crossed the 40-yard line.
This isn’t your average UCLA defense. They are flying around right now! pic.twitter.com/ob55a6fdNZ
— Zach McKinnell (@zachmckinnell) August 28, 2021
There were expectations that the ground game would be elite for UCLA.
Brittain Brown was a known quantity after a transfer from Duke last season, but his six yards per carry on 13 attempts were outshined by another transfer. On just six rushing attempts for the day, Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet recorded over 100 yards and three touchdowns.
— 247Sports (@247Sports) August 28, 2021
The one-two punch of Charbonnet and Brown will keep every defense on the UCLA schedule honest in defending the rush. While the highlights from Week 0 are exciting to consume, there were a few alerts in the box score that may indicate the Bruins passing game is well behind the rush.
Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed just half of his 20 attempts for 130 yards. On the positive side, two of the incompletions were recorded as drops and no turnover-worthy plays were recorded.
Thompson-Robinson was pressured on five attempts, with the first incompletion coming on a throwaway to avoid a sack attempt.
An average depth of target of 12.1 yards is well beyond any of the fourth-year quarterback’s previous seasons.
There is reason to believe UCLA is ready to take the next step as a program under Kelly, but a glorified scrimmage against Hawai’i is not enough to say the Bruins are Pac-12 contenders.
The best adjective for the Bruins defense may be “swarming.” Every defense play saw a handful of UCLA hats around the ball, as the 10 missed tackles were recorded by players who primarily took snaps in the second half.
The new and improved 4-2-5 defense played tight zone coverage while mixing in Bullets A Cross stunts from the linebackers. The key to UCLA being successful is using the cross -oute stunts against an LSU offensive line that did not get continuity through training camp.
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) August 28, 2021
UCLA forced a pair of interceptions and sacks against Hawai’i. The Warriors had an average third-down distance of 8.3 yards and converted just 4-of-15 attempts.
The most impressive stat may be available yards allowed, as Hawai’i posted just 27% well below the national average of 44%. The Bruins will need a similar performance from a Havoc and Success Rate standpoint to stop an LSU attack that will target Boutte in every series.
LSU vs. UCLA Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how LSU and UCLA match up statistically:
LSU Offense vs. UCLA Defense
UCLA Offense vs. LSU Defense
Pace of Play / Other
LSU vs. UCLA Betting Pick
Our Action Network power ratings initially made UCLA a small favorite. The box score from the Hawai’i game shaded the Bruins in a positive direction, projecting UCLA out to 3.5-point favorites.
Kelly has an opportunistic home squad trying to make noise in the college football landscape.
If Thompson-Robinson continues to stay out of the turnover-worthy play column, the Bruins will win this game. Considering the strength of the LSU defense is against the pass, the handicap is the UCLA rushing attack.
Both Charbonnet and Brown will target Farrell and Gaye on the defensive line, putting the LSU tackling drills to test. LSU finished 2020 ranked 80th in Line Yards and now starts a true freshman on the interior. While the defense for the Tigers is loaded with talent, the inability to stop the run will allow UCLA to overpower LSU on the ground.
Every single unit on the LSU offense has dealt with injury through training camp. Emery and Boutte create a typical SEC powerhouse punch on the ground and through the air, but questions about Johnson’s accuracy and decision-making will be on full display with the UCLA blitz packages.
Each offensive ground game will dictate the Success Rate, and ultimately, the winner in this SEC/Pac-12 showdown.
The team with the least amount of questions is UCLA.