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UCLA looks ugly so far; so does Saturday’s card

If it’s a beauty pageant, and style points definitely matter in college football, UCLA is on the ugly side looking in, and Brett Hundley is far from the best-looking quarterback in the country.

Hundley has been hyped as the potential No. 1 pick in the next NFL Draft, but his first two outings of the season were ordinary.

None of that matters much now, however. This is not a sad country song about broken promises and lost hopes. Hundley is legit, and he will get rolling soon. The Bruins’ slow start is surprising, yet winning ugly in September is not the end of the world.

“I’m very disappointed in UCLA so far,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said, “but they have a lot of talent and a good coach, so they could pull it together.”

The Bruins, 2-0 straight up and 0-2 against the spread after squeaking by Virginia and Memphis, are not living up to media hype or oddsmakers’ ratings. But it could be worse.

The season’s first two weeks were a debacle for most of the Big Ten, Texas, UNLV and plenty of other teams on Saturday’s betting board, which looks as unattractive as Brussels sprouts to casual fans.

Georgia-South Carolina is the only Top 25 matchup this weekend, and the Gamecocks are lucky to be ranked after losing their home opener by 24 points.

“Definitely no marquee games,” Bogdanovich said. “It’s one of the worst cards I’ve ever seen. It’s absolutely terrible. But when there is gambling interest in these games, every game means something.”

Every game does matter when there’s money on the line, an important point that NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently admitted. With that in mind, this Saturday football schedule has plenty of games worth watching and wagering.

UCLA and Texas meet in Arlington, Texas, and one team will walk away feeling a lot better about September. The Bruins, favored by 7½ to 8 points, should be able to handle the Longhorns.

The Charlie Strong era in Texas is off to a weak start.

Quarterback David Ash is out with a concussion, and sophomore backup Tyrone Swoopes stepped in and led the Longhorns to a 41-7 loss to Brigham Young last week.

South Carolina, a 6½-point home underdog to Georgia, does not inspire faith, either. The Gamecocks were favored by a field goal when this line opened in the summer, and perceptions of both teams have changed.

The remainder of the day’s so-called marquee games are blowouts on paper: Oklahoma is a 21-point favorite over Tennessee, Notre Dame is a 28-point favorite over Purdue, Southern California is a 17-point favorite at Boston College, and Arizona has attracted sharp money as an 18-point favorite over UNR.

USC, off an emotional 13-10 victory at Stanford, has covered only eight of its past 27 games as a road favorite.

UNLV has been bad and ugly, losing by 45 at Arizona before beating Northern Colorado 13-12. But the Rebels are in their best role now, posting a 12-5-1 ATS mark as home ’dogs under coach Bobby Hauck.

It will be a hot Saturday afternoon at Sam Boyd Stadium, where Northern Illinois is a 10-point favorite. Can the Huskies handle the heat?

If the Rebels get blown out, write off their bowl hopes and wonder if they can win four or five games.

The Big Ten has been written off in the four-team College Football Playoff, with Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin already absorbing losses.

The Spartans, at 35-1 title odds at William Hill books after a relatively good loss at Oregon, still have a prayer.

“The whole league was embarrassed,” Bogdanovich said. “We jacked up all of the Big Ten teams, and we just took a bet on Michigan State, so someone still thinks they can win it.”

UCLA’s ugly start is just a start. The Bruins (10-1 odds) still have hope because Hundley eventually will show he’s worth the hype.

■ CLOSING NUMBERS — A lucky backdoor cover by Hawaii helped me escape with a 3-3 record last week, and that makes it 6-6 after two weeks. There is no game I’m crazy about on this schedule, but I’ll throw out several opinions and hope for more winners than losers.

I do bet these games, and sometimes that’s a good thing. Three favorites — Arizona, Boise State and UCLA — just missed the cut.

Eight plays for Saturday (home team in CAPS):

East Carolina (+10½) over VIRGINIA TECH; CENTRAL MICHIGAN (+6½) over Syracuse; Massachusetts (+16) over VANDERBILT; SOUTH CAROLINA (+6½) over Georgia; SOUTH ALABAMA (+14) over Mississippi State; IDAHO (-3) over Western Michigan; BOSTON COLLEGE (+17) over Southern California; UNLV (+10) over Northern Illinois.

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 him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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