The UCLA Bruins are still in search of their first win of 2019 as they entertain the no. 5 Oklahoma Sooners in the third week of the college football season. Game time is set for 8:00 EST on Saturday, September 14 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The game will be nationally televised on Fox.
According to the Week 3 college football odds, the Sooners are 20.5-point favorites on the road. Meanwhile, over/under for the game is set at 73 points.
It’s a new year with a new quarterback, but not much else has changed for Lincoln Riley and the Sooners. The Oklahoma offense is still operating at a high level behind Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts, leading to a pair of lopsided wins. The Sooners took care of a pesky Houston team in their season opener and then put 70 points on the scoreboard last week against FCS opponent South Dakota. There’s just one game left before the start of Big 12 play, but Oklahoma looks ready to chase yet another conference title.
Meanwhile, UCLA isn’t seeing the kind of improvement they were hoping for in Chip Kelly’s second season with the Bruins. Despite going 3-9 last year, the Bruins showed some positive signs late in the season, including a win over USC. But it’s been at least two steps backward for UCLA early in 2019. The Bruins have lost to both Cincinnati and San Diego State to start the season. While both are solid Group of Five programs, the Bruins will be upset about losing to them. With four games left against ranked teams, UCLA’s bowl chances are already slim in 2019.
These two schools have only played each other a handful of times over the years. But they did meet last year in Norman, with the Sooners winning 49-21. Oklahoma would surely be satisfied with a similar result this time around, as would anyone putting down money on the Sooners.
I know the Sooners are on the road, but this line feels a little small for a team with Oklahoma’s offensive firepower. You could tack another seven points onto this spread and I think I’d still lean toward Oklahoma. UCLA hasn’t shown me much to think they can stay in this game, so this is a heavy lean toward the Sooners to cover.
Obviously, with a spread this big, the onus is on Oklahoma to score early and often. To be honest, I don’t see that being a problem. Granted, the competition level hasn’t been that high, but Hurts has never looked better than he has these past two games. Again, the competition level hasn’t been great, but the Sooners have four receivers averaging over 20 yards per catch, so they’re creating a lot of big plays.
On top of that, Hurts is also the team’s leading rusher, so the Oklahoma offense is playing to his strengths as a runner. Normally, that’d be a little bit of a concern. But the Sooners have also rotated three running backs during the first two games. All three have been productive, giving the Oklahoma offense good balance.
For what it’s worth, the UCLA defense hasn’t been the problem this season. They’ve allowed less than 50 total points through two games, which is a huge improvement from last season. However, few consider Cincinnati and San Diego State to be potent offensive teams. Against a team like Oklahoma, the UCLA defense could revert back to the way they looked last season when they were shredded on a weekly basis.
On the other side of the ball, the UCLA offense has been a huge problem for the Bruins. UCLA has scored just 14 points in each of their first two games. They’ve also turned the ball over six times in those two games. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson hasn’t taken the step forward most were hoping he would. In fact, he might have taken a step back, completing just eight of 26 passes against Cincinnati. Somehow, the UCLA running game has been even worse. With the five sacks Thompson-Robinson has taken, the Bruins are averaging just 1.8 yards per carry this season with 12 yards being their longest running play.
In the past, I’ve been as critical of the Oklahoma defense as anyone, and for good reason. But I don’t think it’ll matter much in this game. If the UCLA offensive line couldn’t create a push against Cincinnati or San Diego State, the Oklahoma defensive line should be able to win the battle at the line of scrimmage. The Sooners actually did a nice job in the season opener against Houston quarterback D’Eriq King, so I think they’ll be fine against Thompson-Robinson.
Unless we see a completely different UCLA team from the one that’s shown up the past two weeks, I think this game could get ugly. The energy of playing a top-5 team at home will only propel the Bruins for so long. Eventually, Oklahoma will start running wild and have no problem covering the 20.5-point spread.