In his second season, coach Jim Mora has returned UCLA to relevance in the Pacific-12 Conference. But he has big games in his sights and bigger goals within reach.
The Bruins have won all five of their home games this season by an average margin of 28.6 points while going 4-1 against the spread. UCLA has won each home game by a double-digit margin and is scoring an average of 48 points in those games.
Despite the Bruins’ impressive resume this season, and the fact they have taken three of the past four meetings with Arizona State, most books are posting the Sun Devils as 2½-point favorites today at the Rose Bowl.
According to my numbers, UCLA should be a 4-point favorite, not a home underdog. Since 2003, the Bruins have compiled an 18-8 spread record in the home ’dog role.
Sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley has played his best football at home, posting a 12-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. For the season, he has rushed for a team-high 502 yards and seven touchdowns.
In the past two weeks, Hundley has not needed to use his legs as much thanks to the emergence of Myles Jack. Because of a rash of injuries at running back, Mora played the freshman linebacker both ways in wins at Arizona and against Washington.
Jack is shining on offense by turning 19 carries into 179 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He ran for four scores in a 41-31 victory over the Huskies on Nov. 15.
Arizona State isn’t the same team when it leaves Tempe. Including a loss to Notre Dame at Arlington, Texas, the Sun Devils are 1-3 ATS away.
It appears the wrong team is favored in this crucial Pac-12 showdown. Take UCLA as an underdog and on the money line for a plus-120 payout.
Four more plays for today (home team in CAPS):
■ Texas A&M (+5) over LOUISIANA STATE — These teams are evenly matched. Since Kevin Sumlin took over as coach, the Aggies have won all eight of their road games. LSU’s defense held Johnny Manziel to 27 rushing yards and intercepted him three times in a 24-19 win in College Station last season. But this Tigers defense isn’t on the same level. With Manziel determined to make amends for a poor performance, I suspect he stays perfect as a starting quarterback on the road.
■ Texas A&M-LOUISIANA STATE (Over 73) — Each team is 8-2 over the total. The Aggies have played to an average combined score of 80.1 points. The Texas A&M defense struggles to stop the run and is going to have all sorts of problems containing LSU’s Jeremy Hill, who has rushed for 964 yards and 13 touchdowns. Likewise, the Tigers will have their hands full with Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who has 31 touchdown passes and eight rushing scores.
■ OKLAHOMA STATE (+9) over Baylor — I made Baylor a 5-point favorite, so I’m confident the line value is with the home ’dog. The Cowboys are 4-0 straight up and 3-1 ATS at home this season and have won 16 of their 17 home games since the start of the 2011 campaign. Oklahoma State has dominated this rivalry by winning six of the past seven.
The Bears have faced only one quality team on the road, beating Kansas State 35-25 in a game that was much closer than the score indicates. With wide receiver Tevin Reese out with an injury along with a starting offensive tackle, Baylor’s offense isn’t operating at full strength. Also, star running back Lache Seastrunk’s status remains in question after he missed last week’s victory over Texas Tech with a groin injury. The Oklahoma State defense, which allows 19 points per game, is the best unit the Bears have faced.
■ Boise State (-6) over SAN DIEGO STATE — The Broncos own a 22-8 spread record in their past 30 games as road favorites. Grant Hedrick has played extremely well since taking over for the injured Joe Southwick as the starting quarterback. Hedrick has 10 touchdown passes while running for six scores.
Last week: 3-2 against the spread
Brian Edwards of VegasInsider.com and BrianEdwardsSports.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.