UCLA at Utah
November 2, 2017
By Brian Edwards
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Utah will play host to UCLA in a Pac-12 showdown Friday night at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on Fox Sports 1. Both of these clubs are out of the conference race, with the Bruins at 2-3 in league play while the Utes have limped to a 1-4 conference record.
While Kyle Whittingham is certainly safe at Utah in his 13th season since taking over for Urban Meyer in 2005, the same can’t be said for Jim Mora Jr. The former coach of both the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks guided a fast rebuild upon his arrival at UCLA in 2012. Mora went 9-5 in his first season before posting back-to-back 10-3 campaigns. That 29-win stretch in three seasons equalled the amount of victories for the Bruins in the five previous years.
However, UCLA went 8-5 in 2015 before falling to 4-8 last season. In fairness, then-sophomore star quarterback Josh Rosen was injured in the sixth game, a 23-20 loss at Arizona State, that the Bruins went into with a 3-2 record. Nevertheless, at 4-4 currently and with Chip Kelly rumored to be a potential fit for this program, it goes without saying that Friday is a crucial contest for Mora.
As of Thursday morning, most betting shops had Utah (4-4 straight up, 5-2-1 against the spread) installed as a 6.5-point favorite with a total of 59. The Bruins were +210 on the money line (risk $100 to win $210).
As we’re filing this story to VI on Thursday morning, the status of Rosen is up in the air. He is listed as ‘questionable’ due to a hand injury sustained in last week’s 44-23 loss at Washington. If he’s ruled ‘out,’ you’ll see this number for the side move north of seven and the total will likely come down a few points.
Utah is 2-2 SU and 2-1-1 ATS at home this season. After starting the season 4-0 both SU and ATS with wins vs. North Dakota (37-16), at BYU (19-13), vs. San Jose State (54-16) and at Arizona (30-24), the Utes have dropped four in a row. The first two defeats came by four combined points and with starting QB Tyler Huntley sidelined with an injury.
Troy Williams started all 13 games under center for Utah in last year’s 9-4 campaign, but he was beaten out by Huntley in August. When Huntley was injured at Arizona, Williams scored on a TD run and the Utes prevailed thanks in large part to a huge pick-six in the second half by true freshman DB Javelin Guidry.
In Williams’s first start of the year, Utah lost a 23-20 decision to Stanford as a three-point home underdog. Williams threw for 238 yards and one TD, but he was intercepted twice. Darren Carrington, the grad transfer wide receiver from Oregon, had seven receptions for 99 yards and one TD. RB Zack Moss rushed 15 times for 79 yards and one TD in the losing effort.
Utah went to The Coliseum on Oct. 14 to take on Southern Cal, which won by a 28-27 count thanks to a stop on a two-point conversion attempt by Utah after it scored a potential tying TD on a one-yard run by Williams with 42 seconds left. You can’t blame for Whittingham for going for two on the road and replays showed Williams had Carrington wide open in the end zone, but he instead opted to try and beat defenders to the corner running the ball at the pylon, only to be denied. Even with the conversion failing, Utah still had a chance with an onside kick, but it wasn’t executed. Nevertheless, Utah backers cashed tickets as a 13.5-point road underdog.
Utah actually led the Trojans 21-7 at intermission. Williams’s TD run gave ‘over’ supporters a winner on the 52-point total. The senior QB threw for 262 yards with one TD and one interception. Williams also had a five-yard TD catch from WR Demari Simpkins on a trick play. Moss ran for 141 yards on 20 attempts, while Simpkins had four catches for 58 yards and one TD.
Judging by the results of the last two weeks, it’s as if Utah left its heart and its season at The Coliseum following that gut-wrenching defeat. Huntley returned to the starting lineup vs. Arizona State two weeks ago, but he was horrible in a 30-10 loss as a 10-point home ‘chalk.’
Huntley completed 19-of-35 passes for 155 yards with zero TDs and four interceptions, including a pick-six. The only offense for the Utes was a 53-yard field goal by Matt Gay early in the third quarter and a two-yard TD run by Devonta’e Henry-Cole with 2:42 left in the final stanza.
Utah dropped its fourth straight last week at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, where Oregon dealt out a 41-20 clubbing as a three-point home favorite. The Ducks raced out to a 17-3 lead, but the Utes trimmed the deficit to 17-13 early in the third quarter on Huntley’s one-yard TD pass to Darrin Paulo. Oregon responded with 17 unanswered points, however, and coasted into the win column.
On the bright side, Huntley returned to his previous form, connecting on 25-of-43 throws for 293 yards and two TDs without an interception. He also had 46 rushing yards, albeit on 16 attempts. Carrington had nine receptions for 130 yards, while Singleton finished with five catches for 59 yards. Moss rushed for 53 yards on merely 10 carries.
For the season, Huntley has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,414 yards with an 8/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He has rushed for 288 yards and three TDs, while Moss has run for a team-best 587 yards and three TDs with a 5.1 yards-per-carry average. Moss also has 23 catches for 163 yards. Carrington has 54 receptions for 779 yards and five TDs.
UCLA (4-4 SU, 2-6 ATS) has been an unmitigated disaster on the road, losing all four of its games both SU and ATS. Mora’s team lost 48-45 at Memphis, 58-34 at Stanford, 47-30 at Arizona and 44-23 at Washington.
Rosen has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,713 yards with a 20/8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He threw seven of his eight picks in UCLA’s first three road games. Rosen threw nine TDs without an interception in the team’s first two games, orchestrating an incredible 45-44 comeback win over Texas A&M after trailing 44-10 late in the third quarter.
The junior signal caller had at least three TD passes in the first four outings but since then, Rosen has four TD passes compared to four interceptions. He was picked off three times at Arizona, only to bounce back with a pair of TD passes without being intercepted in a 31-14 home win over Oregon two weeks ago.
Then in last week’s loss at Washington, Rosen had to leave the game with the injured hand. Devon Modster, a redshirt freshman and former 4-star recruit, completed 7-of-12 passes for 77 yards and one TD without an interception in relief. He had a nine-yard run in his only attempt on the ground. Senior WR Darren Andrews had eight receptions for 73 yards and one TD.
Andrews, a second-team All Pac-12 selection last season, is enjoying a banner campaign. He has 57 receptions for 707 yards and nine TDs. Andrews also has 37 rushing yards on three carries. Before sustaining a season-ending injury in Week 5, sophomore TD Caleb Wilson was playing like a first-team All-American. He had 38 catches for 490 yards and one TD, including a 15-catch, 208-yard performance against Texas A&M. Jordan Lasley has 32 grabs for 543 yards and three TDs.
Soso Jamabo has run for a team-high 343 yards and five TDs, averaging 4.8 YPC. Bolu Olorunfunmi has 342 rushing yards, four TDs and a 5.9 YPC average.
UCLA is ranked 19th in the nation in total offense, fourth in passing yards and 24th in scoring (36.4 PPG). However, the defense has been deplorable. In fact, the Bruins are dead last among 130 FBS teams at defending the run, giving up 307.1 yards per game on the ground. UCLA is No. 121 in the country in total defense and No. 119 in scoring ‘D’ (37.6 PPG).
Making matters worse for the UCLA defense, junior LB Josh Woods went down with a season-ending shoulder injury last week. Woods had recorded 30 tackles (fifth-best on the team), one sack, 2.5 tackles for loss and one QB hurry. Also, starting senior DE Matt Dickerson is ‘questionable’ with a collarbone injury, while sophomore reserve DE Rick Wade is ‘questionable’ with a knee injury. Dickerson has 21 tackles and one TFL, while Wade has 18 tackles, one sack and three TFL’s.
As a road underdog during Mora’s six-year tenure, UCLA owns a 7-7 spread record.
The ‘over’ is 6-2 overall for the Bruins, 4-0 in their road assignments. They’ve seen their games average combined scores of 74.0 points per game.
The ‘under’ is 5-3 overall for the Utes, 3-1 in their home games. They’ve watched their games average combined scores of 51.0 PPG.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- There are two other games on Friday’s card: Memphis at Tulsa and Marshall at FAU. As of Thursday morning, the Tigers were favored by 12 points with a total of 78.5 or 79. Memphis (7-1 SU, 4-4 ATS) is 2-1 both SU and ATS on the road, while Tulsa (2-7 SU, 4-5 ATS) is 2-2 both SU and ATS at home. Mike Norvell’s team has seen the ‘over’ go 6-2 overall, 2-1 in its three road assignments. The Tigers’ games have had average combined scores of 75.9 PPG. Meanwhile, the ‘under’ is 5-4 overall for the Golden Hurricane, 3-1 in its home contests. Tulsa’s average combined scores have netted 70.6 PPG. The ‘under’ has appeared in three straight games and five of the last six for the Golden Hurricane.
-- Since taking its lone defeat by a 40-13 count at Central Florida in Week 5, Memphis has ripped off four consecutive wins while going 3-0-1 ATS. The Tigers are led by senior QB Riley Ferguson, who has thrown for 2,583 yards with a 23/7 TD-INT ratio. His favorite target is senior WR Anthony Miller, who has 61 receptions for 859 yards and 10 TDs. With former North Carolina star Ryan Switzer now a rookie in the NFL playing for the Dallas Cowboys, Memphis has the best special-teams player in the country. That would be sophomore Tony Pollard, who had two kick returns for TDs as a freshman in 2016. Pollard leads the nation in average yards per kick return (41.9) and KO returns for TDs with three. He also has 24 catches for 333 yards and two TDs, in addition to 19 carries for 126 rushing yards and one TD.
-- Memphis owns a 3-2 spread record as a road favorite during Norvell’s brief two-year tenure. The Tigers lead the AAC’s West Division with a 4-1 record to give them a one-half game lead over SMU, which will travel to the Liberty Bowl to face Memphis on Nov. 18. The Tigers will have 14 days of preparation for the Mustangs since they are off next week after facing Tulsa. SMU will be playing a second road game in as many weeks following a date at Navy next week.
-- As of Thursday morning, most spots had Lane Kiffin’s FAU squad listed as a 7.5-point home ‘chalk’ vs. Marshall, with the total at 66. The Thundering Herd were available on the money line for a +245 return (risk $100 to win $245). Marshall saw its five-game winning streak snapped last week in a 41-30 loss to FIU as a 14.5-point home favorite. Nevertheless, Doc Holliday’s squad is still 6-2 both SU and ATS. The Herd has thrived on the road with a 3-1 record both SU and ATS. They are 8-3-1 ATS as road underdogs since 2012, going 2-0 versus the number in a pair of such spots this season.
-- Marshall junior QB Chase Litton is enjoying another excellent season. He has thrown for 1,913 yards with a 16/5 TD-INT ratio. For his career, Litton has a 63/20 career TD-INT ratio. His favorite target this year has been junior WR Tyre Brady, a transfer from Miami. Brady has a team-best 47 receptions for 694 yards and seven TDs.
-- FAU is atop the C-USA East standings with a 4-0 record, but Marshall and FIU are only one game back with identical 3-1 records in league play. The Owls have won four in a row both SU and ATS with each victory coming by at least 14 points. They’re 6-1 ATS in their last seven outings and the ‘over’ has hit in each of their last three games and four of their last five. FAU’s star is sophomore RB Devin Singletary, who has rushed for 1,053 yards and 18 TDs with a 6.6 YPC average.
-- Wake Forest will be without three starters at Notre Dame. RB Cade Carney, strong safety Jessie Bates and WR Greg Dortch are ‘out.’ Bates has a team-high 64 tackles and 5.5 TFL’s. Dortch, a redshirt freshman, was enjoying a tremendous year before going down with a season-ending abdominal injury. He had made 53 catches for 722 yards and nine TDs. Carney has rushed for 219 yards and one TD. The Demon Deacons, who are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games as road underdogs, were catching 14 to the Fighting Irish as of Thursday morning.
-- Georgia Tech (6-0-1 ATS) is the nation’s only team that hasn’t yet been beaten for our purposes, while FSU (0-5-2) is the country’s lone squad that’s yet to cover a number.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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