College football forecast: Buy low on Bruins, Kelly

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

September 7, 2019 04:37 AM
With Oklahoma on deck, UCLA coach Chip Kelly desperately needs to beat San Diego State today in Pasadena.
© USA Today Sports Images

It’s time to buy low on Chip Kelly, who is 3-10 at UCLA and sinking to his lowest point as a coach.

With Oklahoma on deck, the Bruins desperately need to beat San Diego State today at the Rose Bowl. Competent quarterback play would certainly help. Dorian Thompson-Robinson turned in a terrible performance — completing 8 of 26 passes with four turnovers — in a 24-14 loss at Cincinnati on Aug. 29. Kelly remains optimistic about his sophomore QB. Believe it or not, Kelly still can coach and the Bruins, who returned 19 starters, still can be one of the nation’s surprise teams.

But it must start now with Thompson-Robinson playing at a much higher level and star running back Joshua Kelley returning to the field. Kelley, who rushed for 1,243 yards as a junior, missed the season opener with a nagging knee injury and is listed as probable to play. It’s a different offense with Kelley, who rushed for 289 yards in a victory over USC.

Rocky Long is coaching a team in a serious tailspin. San Diego State finished last season on a 1-7 spread skid and opened this one with a 6-0 win over Weber State as Ryan Agnew passed for only 108 yards and Juwan Washington rushed for 55 yards on 22 carries. Again, the opponent was Weber State, not Alabama or Clemson.

UCLA’s run defense showed improvement at Cincinnati. This line opened -7 — where I played it as my best bet this week — and is up to 8. The Bruins should be the right side.

321-Cincinnati (plus-16) over OHIO STATE: Luke Fickell, a former Buckeyes player and assistant coach, is a rising coaching star. He guided the Bearcats to an 11-2 finish last season and opened with another victory over UCLA. Fickell will bring a solid defense and his “A” game plan to Columbus, where quarterback Justin Fields and the Ohio State offense got off to a red-hot first quarter last week before cooling off. Fickell’s defense and sophomore QB Desmond Ridder’s playmaking ability should make Cincinnati a dangerous ‘dog.

370-TEXAS (plus-6½) over Louisiana State: Tom Herman is 13-2-1 against the spread as an underdog, including 8-2-1 in that role as the Texas coach. In those 16 games, Herman has 10 outright wins, the latest over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Over the summer, this game was posted in the pick’em range, so why the major line move after one game?

Sam Ehlinger passed for four touchdowns in a season-opening 45-14 victory over Louisiana Tech as Texas easily covered the 20½-point line. A Longhorns defense with eight new starters shut out the Bulldogs until the fourth quarter. This matchup under the Saturday night lights in Austin has been hyped for months. Neither team was caught looking ahead last week. Joe Burrow passed for five touchdowns as the Tigers pounced on Georgia Southern 55-3. LSU unveiled a new spread offense and surprisingly showed a lot of its playbook. Burrow completed 23 of 27 passes for 278 yards before leaving early in the second half. The up-tempo, no-huddle scheme often features five receiving targets, a major departure from the Tigers’ conservative offenses of the past. Ehlinger will need to run and pass his way to a Heisman-like performance for the Longhorns to have a shot at the upset. The crowd will create an electric atmosphere, and Herman is at his best as an underdog.

385-Stanford-USC (Under 44): Quarterback injuries complicate this matchup. JT Daniels had the new-look USC offense humming before leaving Saturday’s opener with a season-ending knee injury. The Trojans will turn to true freshman Kedon Slovis, who completed 6 of 8 passes for 57 yards in the 31-23 victory over Fresno State. Slovis was a game manager. Expect the Trojans to be conservative with their play-calling, and that’s almost always the case with Stanford coach David Shaw. Junior quarterback K.J. Costello, who led the Pac-12 in passing efficiency last year, is out after taking a hit to the head. Davis Mills is his backup and there’s a big drop-off. Cameron Scarlett, who rushed 22 times for 97 yards last week, will likely be the focus of the offense. The Cardinal escaped with a 17-7 win and cover, as if Northwestern bettors need a reminder. The Trojans are 8-20 ATS in their past 28 games under coach Clay Helton. Instead of a side, play the under with two conservative coaches and inexperienced QBs.

390-FRESNO STATE (plus-3½) over Minnesota: The Bulldogs are 22-7 straight up and 20-6-1 ATS the past three seasons under coach Jeff Tedford, who’s 9-0 ATS as a ‘dog. The Gophers were outgained and got lucky to hold off South Dakota State 28-21 in the opener. Fresno put a scare into USC as senior quarterback Jorge Reyna passed for 256 yards and rushed for 88.

391-Oregon State (plus-6½) over HAWAII: Four times since the beginning of last season, Hawaii has won as a double-digit underdog. The Warriors did it again on Aug. 24 with a 45-38 shootout victory over Arizona despite a -4 turnover differential. Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich benched starter Cole McDonald, who passed for 378 and four touchdowns but was intercepted four times. The teams combined for 1,134 total yards and 58 first downs while running a combined 149 plays. It would be tough to make a quick turnaround after a game like that, so it’s a significant scheduling advantage for Hawaii to have a week off before this one.

The Warriors are 3-11 in their past 14 games against opponents from the Pac-12, which is sending its worst team to Honolulu this week. The Beavers were stuffed 52-36 by Oklahoma State, which rolled up 555 total yards. One positive was Jake Luton, who passed for 251 yards and three TDs. For some late-night action, it’s tempting to take Oregon State for this reason — Rolovich is 0-9-1 ATS as a favorite at Hawaii.

Last week this was a disaster area. A combination of bad handicapping and bad beats (Northwestern and Oregon) resulted in a 2-7 ATS mark.

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