UCLA vs San Diego State Odds & Prediction: Can Aztecs Keep It Close?

UCLA vs San Diego State Odds & Prediction: Can Aztecs Keep It Close? article feature image

Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Mayden (San Diego State)

UCLA vs San Diego State Odds

Sat., September 9
7:30 p.m. ET
-115o / -105u
San Diego State Odds
-115o / -105u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

The UCLA Bruins kicked off their 2023 season with a 27-13 victory over Coastal Carolina. The Bruins used a 13-0 run to put the game away in the fourth quarter, but narrowly missed covering the 15.5-point spread.

Next, the Bruins will hit the road to battle in-state foe, San Diego State.

The Aztecs will enter this matchup at 2-0, with a seven-point victory over Ohio and an eight-point victory over Idaho State. San Diego State is 1-1 against the spread this season, but last week, it didn't come close to covering as a 35-point favorite.

This week, UCLA is over a two-touchdown favorite. However, SDSU won the most recent meeting in 2019 — its first in the series, as UCLA holds a 21-1-1 lead.

Since 2016, San Diego State is 7-4 outright against the Pac-12. Can the Aztecs pull another upset over a Pac-12 opponent?

Check out our NCAAF Betting Hub for more college football previews, predictions, news and analysis.

UCLA Bruins

If watching UCLA's offense last week looked a bit different, it's likely because it was the first time in five years that it didn't have Dorian Thompson-Robinson under center.

As DTR looks to find his footing with the Cleveland Browns, many look towards Dante Moore as the future of UCLA football. Last week, Moore showed the future should be now, as he went 7-for-12 for 143 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He delivered dimes all over the field.

However, junior Ethan Garbers got the start and went 10-for-17 for 121 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. UCLA only scored on one of Garbers' drives, and he ranks 118th nationally in QBR after Week 1. It's expected that Garbers will get the start again and Kent State transfer Collin Schlee likely will get a few series, as well.

UCLA's quarterback controversy didn't affect its ground attack in Week 1, as T.J. Harden and Ball State transfer Carson Steele each ran for 76 yards and averaged over five yards per carry. Each is over 215 pounds, giving the Bruins a physical pair of runners.

Cal transfer J.Michael Sturdivant announced his presence in a big way with five receptions for 139 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown reception from Moore. USC transfer Kyle Ford had two catches for 39 yards in his debut.

Coastal Carolina found success moving the ball in the first half, but the Bruins tightened up down the stretch. UCLA forced three turnovers — two interceptions — on the Chanticleers' final six possessions. In the process, the Bruins became the first team to pick off CCU quarterback Grayson McCall.

The Bruins' defense was also stout against the run; they held the Chanticleers to 56 rushing yards on 1.6 yards per carry. Even without the four sacks the Bruins created, Coastal Carolina still averaged only 2.8 yards per carry. That should give the unit confidence as it looks to shut down San Diego State's rushing attack.

Defensive lineman Laiatu Latu was the star of the unit, accounting for three of the team's four sacks. The junior picked up where he left off last year when finished with 12.5 sacks.

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San Diego State Aztecs

The Aztecs are led offensively by quarterback Jalen Mayden. The former safety had a big game on the ground last week, as he ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.

However, he can also beat teams with his arm, as he threw for 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games at last season.

Last week, Mayden led a SDSU rushing attack that racked up 304 yards on the ground. Junior running back Jaylon Armstead ran for 60 yards and a touchdown. He's averaging 7.7 yards per carry this season.

UCLA will likely stack the box and force Mayden to beat it with his arm.

Tight end Mark Redman will be a factor. At 6-foot-6, he's a big target for Mayden in the red zone, and he has both of the team's touchdown receptions this season.

Wide receiver Mekhi Shaw is the team's leading returning receiver, and freshman Baylin Brooks will be counted on to make plays, as well.

Defensively, SDSU is typically stout under Brady Hoke, and that has remained the case this year despite the expectation that this year's group may need some time to come together.

The Aztecs have forced six turnovers in their first two games, all interceptions. Senior safety Cedarious Barfield has picked off a pass in each of the team's first two games and leads the squad. Cornerback Noah Tumblin has an interception and leads the team with four passes defended.

The Aztecs are 32nd in Passing Success Rate and 34th Passing Explosiveness defensively. They're also ninth in Rushing Success Rate and 22nd in defending Rushing Explosiveness.

Linebacker Cody Moon has made an immediate impact since transferring in from New Mexico. He leads the team with 15 tackles and he also has a sack.

UCLA vs San Diego State

Betting Pick & Prediction

The saying goes, "If you have two quarterbacks, you have none."

Well, the Bruins are currently trying out three.

Had head coach Chip Kelly started Moore last week — or at least stuck with him after he initially went in for Garbers — the Bruins likely would've beaten Coastal Carolina handily and covered. This week, Moore and the rest of the UCLA quarterbacks will have to deal with a tougher Aztecs defense.

The line of scrimmage will be key in this game, as both teams want to run the ball. If the Aztecs are successful in establishing the run, that will allow them to sustain drives and control the clock. Last week, it possessed the ball for over 34 minutes.

Limited possessions and its indecision at quarterback could make it difficult for UCLA to cover a such a large spread. The key is the hook here. At -14.5, UCLA likely will have to win by three possessions to cover this spread. For that reason, I will be backing San Diego State as a home underdog.

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