September 25th 2014 - Posted at 5:00 PM ET
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Take UCLA at -3 spread against Arizona State risking 2%
We have an intriguing weekday PAC-12 matchup tonight between two undefeated teams as the Sun Devils host the UCLA Bruins! Both the Bruins and Sun Devils are dealing with injuries at quarterback but the situation differs immensely for each team. Arizona State's leader and senior starter Taylor Kelly is out with a foot injury while UCLA starter Brett Hundley is listed as 'probable' currently and is a game-time decision due to an elbow injury he suffered against Texas.
Kelly sitting out is a huge loss to Todd Graham's offense. He averaged 264.3 total yards per game through the first two contests and accounted for eight scores. In his place will be junior backup Mike Bercovici who is not as mobile or dynamic and also has limited experience at this level. Bercovici has attempted just 24 passes in his Arizona State career! Even though he is a junior, he does not have a whole lot of in-game practice and actual reps running the ASU offense. The Arizona State offense has historically been run directly through Kelly, whether on the ground or through the air as he is their key playmaker. Without him in the lineup, we expect ASU to struggle tonight.
On the other sideline, UCLA coach Jim Mora has been coy about the status of quarterback Brett Hundley. The junior suffered an elbow injury against Texas and practiced in a limited capacity over the last week. If Hundley does not play tonight, backup Jerry Neuheisel will start. Neuheisel actually performed extremely well against Texas completing 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards and two TDs! He even led the team late in the 4th quarter on the final touchdown drive that gave the Bruins the win anjd that was when he was thrown in the deep-end without previous knowledge that he'd be playing. Obviously the Bruins offense would not be as dynamic without Hundley under center, but we feel that the experience and confidence Neuheisel gained in the Texas game would carry over into this one and that UCLA has a great chance of winning and covering with or without Hundley.
Arizona State is undefeated and ranked inside the Top 15 overall, but it's arguable if their ranking is completely justified. The Bruins have played the much tougher schedule so far season, while the Sun Devils have played lesser competition in the forms of Weber State, New Mexico and Colorado. In their most recent matchup versus Colorado, Arizona State was actually outgained in the game 545 yards to 426 yards! Had it not been for three costly Colorado turnovers, including two inside their own territory that resulted in touchdowns, the Buffaloes could have potentially won that game outright! To allow an offensively challenged team like Colorado to put up 545 yards of offense has to put some question marks on the defense. This will be ASU's toughest test to date and the Sun Devils have not won when listed as a home underdog in 2 seasons under coach Graham. Their defense is inferior to UCLA and we expect to see that on display tonight.
UCLA had come into this season with a lot of hype. There had been talks of Brett Hundley being in Heisman conversation and that UCLA could potentially be one of the 4 teams in this year's playoffs. Even though they are 3-0 on the season, they are 0-3 ATS. That has caused a lot of the betting public to simply walk away from this team or even turn on them. And they they have been winning games and have actually played an extremely tough schedule thus far this season having to travel on the road and play Virginia and then Memphis and Longhorns. Those are some respectable teams and while they may not have won those games in blowout fashion, they have showed that they have the motivation and heart to grind out wins. They have been asked to cover some pretty hefty spreads in their first 3 games so getting them now at only a field goal shows a lot of value.
This is also a big time revenge game for the Bruins as Arizona State handed them their only home loss of 2013 which essentially kept the Bruins out of the Pac-12 Championship Game! You can bet that Jim Mora and his Bruins have not forgotten that and with Taylor Kelly out, we don't expect UCLA to show any mercy. It’s also worth mentioning that this Sun Devils team is not nearly as strong as they were last season with only 8 starters back.
There are a lot of question marks for both teams coming into this game, but we feel that UCLA is the overall better team whether Hundley is on the field or not. According to the most recent reports, Hundley will play in the game and if he does that severely tips the scales in the Bruins favor. There is a reason why Taylor Kelly beat out Mike Bercovici for the starting job at QB and that was because he had thrown too many interceptions during practice. At practice that’s against teammates who are taking it somewhat easy on a player, not a Top 15 ranked team with revenge on their minds. We expect the ASU offense to struggle with their backup QB. The Bruin defense is stout and they also have the advantage in special teams. Their offense should do enough to come away with the victory and we believe they will do so by more than a FG.
Other notable facts to consider:
- UCLA is 8-3 ATS in the last 11 meetings between these two teams.
- UCLA is 6-2 ATS in their last eight road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
- Kelly was a handful for the Bruins defense last year in this matchup but will miss tonight's game.
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