UCLA vs. NC State Odds & Picks: 2 Bets for the Holiday Bowl (Dec. 28)

UCLA vs. NC State Odds & Picks: 2 Bets for the Holiday Bowl (Dec. 28) article feature image

Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images and Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured, from left: UCLA Bruins linebacker Mitchell Agude (45) and NC State Wolfpack running back Ricky Person Jr. (8).

Editor's Note: The Holiday Bowl will not be played tonight due to COVID-19 issues in the UCLA program.

UCLA vs. NC State Odds

Tuesday, Dec. 28
8 p.m. ET
-110o / -110u
NC State Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Holiday Bowl
Tuesday, Dec. 28 · San Diego, CA

Two teams that exceeded oddsmakers' preseason expectations in UCLA and NC State will collide in the 43rd edition of the Holiday Bowl.

This will be the first time the game is played in Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. While weather in Southern California is traditionally ideal for sporting events, San Diego is expected to see a bit of wind and an increasing chance of rain later in the evening.

Petco ranks as one of the lowest in MLB in wind speed, as the dimensions are more of a factor as to why the venue is great for pitchers.

Petco Park is ready for the @HolidayBowl
NC State comes in tomorrow, UCLA on Friday. Video from our @fox5sandiego drone photographer Aaron Eudaley pic.twitter.com/McaYMkO6cG

— Troy Hirsch (@troyhirschfox5) December 23, 2021

UCLA enters this game on a hot streak, winning and covering the final three games of the season. The Bruins covered every game away from Pasadena this season, indicating the team is adequately prepared for road travel.

Head coach Chip Kelly was in the conversation for the Oregon job, but with that position filled, the job continues in winning the Pac-12 South.

NC State has posted solid numbers on both offense and defense. Quarterback Devin Leary finished top-15 in pass grading, per PFF. The 3-3-5 scheme on the defensive side of the ball has made coordinator Tony Gibson one of the hottest names in the coaching market.

The Wolfpack are graded as the top overall pass rush in the nation, which makes UCLA offensive passing downs an electric watch for the college football consumer.

UCLA Bruins

Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had his best statistical season since taking his first snaps in 2018.

A 15:10 big-time throw to turnover-worthy play ratio is a colossal improvement after entering the season with 21 big-time throws to 44 turnover-worthy plays in his career.

The addition of Ryan Gunderson as the quarterbacks coach has made all the difference in the Success Rate and explosiveness of the Bruins quarterback.

Here’s video of the Dorian Thompson-Robinson in-game hat signing courtesy of Lupe Nuno. pic.twitter.com/GtrpzfkhTs

— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) November 20, 2021

Thompson-Robinson scored nine touchdowns on the ground this season, but the dual rushing attack of Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet and Duke transfer Brittain Brown may be the best in the nation.

Both running backs have combined for 92 missed tackles and averaged more than 3.7 yards after contact. This is a top-10 offense defined by Rushing Success Rate and Stuff Rate.

The statistics begin to deteriorate in passing downs for the Bruins offense, making first- and second-down gains the key to UCLA's success.

Despite the poor defensive numbers, there has been improvement from a 2020 defense that ranked outside the top 100 in almost every category.

The 2-4-5 defense called by coordinator Jerry Azzinaro loves to blitz, with a 45% rate being one of the highest in the nation. The scheme has been successful in stopping the explosive play through the air, as the Bruins rank 32nd in defensive pass expected points.

UCLA will give up plenty of available yards against opponents that establish the run but have improved in defending the end zone. The Bruins are 49th in Defensive Finishing Drives but have allowed 40-of-43 opponent red-zone attempts to be successful in putting points on the board.

Azzinaro's contract is set to expire after the Holiday Bowl, giving the UCLA defense plenty of motivation.

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NC State Wolfpack

Leary has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in FBS through 2021. His 31:9 big-time throw to turnover-worthy play ratio underlines a tremendous touchdown-to-interception correlation.

NC State has not been the most successful offense running the ball, ranking 90th in Success Rate and 58th in Stuff Rate. The Wolfpack finished with one of the worst methodical drive rates in the nation but almost doubled the explosive drive rate.

Those numbers come through the air off the arm of Leary.


— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) September 25, 2021

Emeka Emezie has been targeted 89 times on the season and has lined up 379 times in the wideout spot, putting the focus on the cornerback position for UCLA. While there could be safety help on Emezie, Thayer Thomas has been deadly in 328 snaps lined up in the slot.

UCLA sending stunts on 45% of defensive snaps may not matter, as Leary has a drop of just 5% in adjusted completion rate in opponent blitz attempts.

The Wolfpack defense has hummed through ACC play, ranking 18th in the nation in opponent yards to go on third downs. Getting the UCLA offense into passing downs is the key to the game.

The Wolfpack defense gave up a boatload of rushing yards in the final five games of the season, specifically 297 to North Carolina and 215 to Louisville. NC State ranks fifth in Defensive Stuff Rate, but any UCLA rushing attempt that is not met in the backfield may turn into an explosive play.

UCLA vs. NC State Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how UCLA and NC State match up statistically:

UCLA Offense vs. NC State Defense
Rush Success96
Line Yards2433
Pass Success346
Pass Blocking**631
Big Play6178
Finishing Drives5946
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

NC State Offense vs. UCLA Defense
Rush Success90110
Line Yards3642
Pass Success1660
Pass Blocking**4692
Big Play4469
Finishing Drives3949
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling6237
Middle 82645
SP+ Special Teams7944
Plays per Minute4094
Rush Rate60.8% (23)45.6% (122)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

UCLA vs. NC State Betting Pick

Execution is key to this bowl game, as both offenses are ranked top-25 in Havoc Allowed.

The NC State offense will focus on getting drives past the UCLA 40-yard line and exposing a secondary that has struggled to make stops. Although Leary is unfazed by pressure, UCLA is 120th in Defensive Passing Downs Sack Rate. NC State has also scored on 39-of-43 red-zone attempts, meaning the Wolfpack are sure to put points on the board.

The UCLA offense has been a touchdown machine in the red zone. The Bruins have scored on 44-of-50 attempts but kicked only seven field goals this season.

If NC State continues to play poor rush defense, Thompson-Robinson will have the UCLA offense in scoring position often. With Brown at full strength, the Bruins will be as fresh as they were in their Week 2 victory over LSU.

If there's one situation to monitor, it's fourth downs for Chip Kelly. Punter Luke Akers hit the transfer portal after the regular season, leaving UCLA without a player who has attempted a punt this season.

The Action Network projection places the Wolfpack as 2.5-point favorites, giving no value to the side.

Both offenses should have no issues gaining yards in chunks, with the Wolfpack defense focusing on the run and the Bruins defense focusing against the pass.

North Carolina State has a top-20 scoring differential through the first half, while UCLA ranks 11th in the country in second-half scoring. There will be points, but these teams hit their strides in different parts of the game.

Look for NC State to get the action started, with the idea of a live bet before the Bruins get to the fourth quarter. UCLA has the second-highest point average in fourth quarters of all teams in FBS.

Pick: 1H Over 29.5 · NC State 1H ML -120 or Better

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