(3-2, 2-3 ATS)
California Golden Bears
(2-2, 3-1 ATS)
The state of California has one of its biggest rivalry games on Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, and Bang the Book has all of the NCAA football trends covered for the duel between the UCLA Bruins and the Cal Golden Bears.
UCLA is suddenly resurgent with wins in three straight games after what looked like a horrendous start to the season at 0-2. Last week’s win over the Washington State Cougars was really the first expected ‘W’ of the year for this team, as it was a 23.5 point favorite on the college football betting line. We’re five games into the season, and HC Rick Neuheisel has finally realized that he essentially has to abandon the passing game unless he absolutely has to go to it. Neither QB Kevin Prince nor QB Richard Brehaut is a legitimate BCS level quarterback, and the Bruins are only averaging 91.0 yards per game through the air as a result. RB Johnathan Franklin might start getting some rumblings about the Heisman Trophy if the Bruins continue to win, as he has 625 yards and five scores on the season on the ground. The ‘D’ for UCLA is improving bit by bit, but giving up 28 points to a suspect Wazzou club last week can’t be encouraging with Cal, Oregon, and Arizona on the upcoming docket.
Cal’s offense was stuffed up two weeks ago by the Arizona Wildcats in a 10-9 disappointment that has to disturb HC Jeff Tedford. His team dropped 52 on the board in each of its first two games of the season, but all of a sudden, there have only been 40 total points scored since then. The defense really only has one bad game this year for the Golden Bears, that being in the 52 points allowed to the Nevada Wolf Pack, and save that game, the ‘D’ has only allowed 20 total points. Needless to say, the Golden Bears have to think that they still have a chance at the Pac-10 title, especially if they can survive next week at USC, as four of the final six will be played at home. RB Shane Vereen is a man to watch, as he already has 426 rushing yards and eight TDs on the season. QB Kevin Riley has thrown eight TD passes against four picks and has 848 yards in four games through the air.
Home teams have dominated this series in recent years, though the Golden Bears did score a 45-26 win last season in Pasadena. Cal has now covered two straight after UCLA covered four in a row, but the home team won every other meeting in the 2000s until last year. As a result, we think that going into Berkeley is just going to be too tough for the Bruins to take. There’s a reason that the oddsmakers have made this spread more than a touchdown. Vereen and Riley will lead the way offensively, while a one dimensional UCLA offense will be forced out of its comfort zone when it falls behind, and that will make all the difference.
NCAA Football Free Pick: California Golden Bears -7.5