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It’s time for UCLA’s Josh Rosen to pass a big test

It’s probably true the best quarterback in Los Angeles is not on the Rams’ roster. Josh Rosen is a UCLA sophomore, which means he’s two years away from the NFL and still can enjoy college life for awhile.

Rosen could start for the Cleveland Browns this weekend, but why would he want that type of cruel punishment? He’s better off on campus.

“I think Rosen is the real deal as far as his quarterback skills,” WagerTalk.com handicapper Preston Johnson said.

And Rosen also will tell everyone he’s the real deal. On a Sports Illustrated cover in August, Rosen was touted for his big arm and big mouth. He’s a cocky kid from California who runs his mouth a lot. It’s time to see if he can pass the test with his arm.

His right arm has been too quiet this season. In three games — a loss to Texas A&M and victories over UNLV and Brigham Young — Rosen has passed for four touchdowns with four interceptions. He was not especially hot against a soft Rebels secondary two weeks ago, completing 23 of 38 passes for 267 yards with one touchdown.

His potential and skills are obvious to see. But so far, there’s no reason to refer to the stadium in Pasadena, California, as the Rosen Bowl.

But if the Bruins beat Stanford on Saturday, Rosen will be the primary reason. He will need to be the best player on the field, and that’s not going to be easy.

Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey might be college football’s best player. McCaffrey has proven to be blue-collar tough. Bruins coach Jim Mora talks about wanting his team to be more physical and less about finesse. That perception of the two teams — and Stanford’s eight-game win streak in the series — is why UCLA is a small home underdog.

Johnson (@SportsCheetah on Twitter) said he does not care a bit about the recent lopsided series or the memory of McCaffrey rushing for 243 yards in a blowout of the Bruins last year.

He cares more about a “really strong” UCLA defense that limited BYU to 23 yards rushing a week ago, and I always criticize Stanford coach David Shaw for being more conservative than a brown suit bought off the sales rack at J.C. Penney.

“I have not been super impressed with Stanford,” said Johnson, who bet the Bruins and took 3½ points. “I think Rosen is fine, but where they have issues is the offensive line. I think they have looked tougher. I do like UCLA in the game.”

It’s time for Rosen to do more talking with his arm. It’s time for the UCLA defense to corral McCaffrey and pay him back for last year’s embarrassment.

“It would be Stanford or nothing for me,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “But if Rosen has a big game, they could outscore Stanford. I would like to see it.”

Southern California’s sluggish loss to Stanford a week ago prompted Trojans coach Clay Helton to switch quarterbacks. Helton, who might soon be on shaky ground himself, benched Max Browne in favor of highly touted freshman Sam Darnold, who’s more mobile.

Johnson said he considers Darnold an “upgrade,” and he’s willing to give USC a serious look as a 3-point underdog at Utah on Friday night.

Quarterback production is the biggest question facing Florida, a 6½- to 7-point underdog at Tennessee. Johnson said his numbers show the Volunteers as 10 points better. The Gators, winners of 11 straight in the series, will start Purdue transfer Austin Appleby. He’s the replacement for injured Luke Del Rio, the son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio.

Two years ago, Appleby and Danny Etling were battling to be the Boilermakers’ quarterback. Etling is now starting for another Southeastern Conference power, Louisiana State.

Meanwhile, Purdue, still searching for a quarterback and a coach with a clue while struggling to escape the Big Ten basement, is a 5½-point home favorite over UNR.

UNLV quarterback Johnny Stanton, who recently traded shots with Rosen at the Rose Bowl, should have a big Saturday against Idaho, a two-touchdown ‘dog at little Sam Boyd Stadium.

“If the Rebels have a chance to lay the wood, they will. I just don’t know if they are good enough to lay the wood,” Bogdanovich said. “I would definitely lay it before I would take it because I don’t want any piece of Idaho.”

CLOSING NUMBERS

My record for the season is 9-6-1 (3-3-1 last week). Here are five plays, including a rare double-digit favorite, for Saturday (home team in CAPS):

MISSISSIPPI (-7) over Georgia; Florida (+7) over TENNESSEE; Louisiana State (-3) over AUBURN; UNLV (-14½) over Idaho; UCLA (+3) over Stanford.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247

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