For the second straight season the UCLA Bruins will open the season with a game against Cincinnati. Last year the Bearcats won 26-17 at UCLA as a 14-point dog. A prime example of how how far the markets can be off in Week 1. ‘
This year the matchup will be played at Nippert Stadium. Kickoff is set for Thursday, Aug. 29th at 7:00 EST and will be televised on ESPN. Without a doubt one of the more intriguing matchups on Thursday’s card.
Oddsmakers have the Bearcats listed as a 3-point home favorite, which is down slightly from the opening line of Cincinnati -4.5. The total has also been adjusted. It opened at 64 and is now listed at 60.5 and even 60 at some places.
Click here for a full list of the Week 1 NCAAF odds and for more links to our individual game previews.
Vegas Odds & Betting Preview: Cincinnati vs UCLA
The visitor in this matchup is a team I can’t wait to see in action. UCLA will begin year two under head coach Chip Kelly. There’s plenty of room for improvement. The Bruins went just 3-9 after a miserable 0-5 start to the season.
I’m sure a lot of people see this as a sign that Kelly has lost his touch at the collegiate level. If he was so good, he would have at least got UCLA to a bowl.
What they don’t factor is the massive scheme changes that were being installed. The Bruins also played an absolutely brutal schedule. More importantly they got better as the season progressed. Not a lot of people are talking about this team, but UCLA is a team to watch with 19 returning starters (9 offense 10 defense).
I’m sure Kelly is using Cincinnati as an example to just how quickly you flip the script. The Bearcats hired well respected Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell prior to the 2017 season. His first year on the job they went 4-8 and were a mere 1-7 in the ACC. In year two, Cincinnati finished 11-2, which included a 35-31 win over Va Tech in the Military Bowl.
There were massive improvements on both sides of the ball. The Bearcats went from averaging 20.9 ppg to 34.9 ppg. Almost an identical 14-point jump made by the defense, who allowed just 17.2 ppg after giving up 31.8 ppg the previous year.
During all of this, red-shirt freshmen Desmond Ridder emerged into a star, winning the job over incumbent Hayden Moore. He threw for almost 2,500 yards with a 20-5 TD-INT ratio and rushed for 583 yards and 5 scores. He’s one of 14 starters back (7 offense, 7 defense).
College Football Free Pick & Predictions: UCLA +3
My early lean here would have to be on UCLA. The Bruins OVER 5.5 is one of my favorite win total bets this year and I think they win this game outright. I hate passing up points when I’m getting at least a field goal, but I’ll probably play the money line as well.
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No disrespect to Cincinnati, who I feel is one of the better ‘Group of 5’ teams out there, I think UCLA is going to be light years ahead of where they were a season ago. The Bruins didn’t have to just learn a completely new offense last year, they had to learn how to play fast. The up-tempo style of play worked wonders for him at Oregon and there’s more than enough talent here.
I also love the revenge angle here and with that just how these two teams are coming into this season. UCLA is coming into this season with a chip on their shoulder. Cincinnati on the other hand has to be feeling themselves and I don’t know if they are going to give the Bruins the respect they should.
This is what we call a measuring stick game. What better way to prove that you are a better team than beat the team that knocked you off in the opener last year.
Let’s also not forget that was a 17-17 game going into the 4th quarter. The total yards were almost identical at the end of the game (304 to 306). I think UCLA is going to be better in ever aspect of the game than they were in last year’s contest and for Cincinnati they don’t have near the talent on the defensive side of the ball as they did a year ago. Give me the Bearcats +3!