College Football Betting Picks: UCLA Bruins at Rice Owls

UCLA Bruins at Rice Owls
Thursday, August 30, 2012, 7:30 pm Eastern, TV: CBS Sports
Rice Stadium – Houston, Texas
Opening Line: UCLA -15 1/2
Current Line: UCLA -16 1/2
Opening Total: 56
Current Total 58 1/2
Opening Money Line: UCLA -650 / Rice +525
Current Money Line: UCLA -700 / Rice +550

UCLA is a 16.5 point favorite at Rice Thursday night in the season opener fro both teams.

For the second straight season, the UCLA Bruins open the season in Houston, Texas. The Bruins hope for a different result as they lost to the Case Keenum led Houston Cougars 38-34. Houston would go on to win 13 games last season. For UCLA they would go on to a 6-8 season, under former coach Rick Neuheisel. Improbably, the Bruins won the inaugural Pac 12 South Division title. USC was ineligible and Arizona St and Utah both had a chance to grab the title, but they choked losing games they should have won. The 6-6 Bruins backed into the Pac 12 title game, where they lost at Oregon 49-31. Neuheisel was fired before that game. UCLA petitioned the NCAA for a waiver to allow them to participate in a bowl game despite having a 6-7 record. The waiver was granted and UCLA lost in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to Illinois 20-14. The Bruins were 5-9 ATS and the total was also 5-9 last season. UCLA hired former Falcons and Seahawks coach Jim Mora, Jr. as coach for this season.

Rice is coached by David Bailiff, in his sixth season with the Owls. The Owls are coming off a 4-8 season last year. The highlight of the season was a 24-22 home upset over Purdue. The Owls had other wins over Memphis, UTEP, and Tulane, 3 of the worst teams in Conference USA. All were at home. They had close losses to Marshall and SMU, but every other loss was by 18 or more to six teams that went to a bowl last year. The Owls were crushed 73-34 by crosstown rival Houston. Rice was 5-7 ATS and the total was 4-8 last season.

This is the fifth ever meeting between UCLA and Rice. It is only the second ever meeting in Houston, and the first since 1966. UCLA leads the series 4-0. The Bruins won the last meeting in 2006 26-16 at the Rose Bowl.

UCLA’s offense will be led by quarterback Brett Hundley, a redshirt frshman. Look for the Bruins to lean heavily on running back Johnathan Franklin who rushed for over 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns last year. Senior wide receiver Joseph Fauria had 39 catches, 481 yards, and six touchdowns, and will be the go-to receiver.

The UCLA defense took a serious hit in the pre-season when top defender linebacker Patrick Larimore decided to quit football because of concerns over too many concussions. Defensive ends Datone Jones and Cassius Marsh combined for 10.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks last year. Cornerback Aaron Hester made 57 tackles last year.

Though UCLA is rebuilding, it is nothing compared to what Rice is doing. With 25 seniors graduating last year, Rice is one of the youngest teams in FBS. The Owls have only have 8 seniors on the entire roster this season.To be honest, Rice has only won 10 games in the last 3 seasons, so rebuilding might be a misnomer.

Offensively, for Rice the best player is tight end Luke Wilson who had 39 catches last year. He is a Mackey Award contender. Quarterback Taylor McHargue split time at quarterback last season and only threw for 1,000 yards, with 8 touchdowns and 5 picks, but he is the full time starter now.

Rice gave up 400 yards a game last year. They could struggle with UCLA’s spread offense. Officially, the defense returns 5 starters, but 3 players come back after missing all or most of 2011.

UCLA is 5-2 ATS as a favorite of 10.5 points or more, 5-2 as a road favorite of 10.5 points or more, 6-16 overall, 2-10 in road games, 0-5 in Thursday games, and 0-4 in non-conference games. Rice is 6-2-1 ATS at home, including 5-1-1 as a home dog, 8-21 in non-conference games, and 1-7-1 as an underdog of 10.5 points or more.

Neither one of these teams will be very good this year, but UCLA has more talent. I think Rice can stay within the big 16.5 point number though at home.

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