Chip Kelly returns to his old stomping grounds this weekend as he leads the UCLA Bruins against his former team, the Oregon Ducks. The action gets underway at 7:30 EST on Saturday, November 3, at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox.
The Ducks are currently listed as 10-point favorites at home. However, that line has changed substantially after Oregon opened favored by 13 points. The over/under for the game is set at 59.5 points. Click here to check out a full list of betting odds for this week’s college football action.
Kelly and the Bruins are officially in must-win territory. UCLA finally found their way to a couple wins after starting the season 0-5. However, a loss to Utah last week dropped the Bruins to 2-6 overall and 2-3 in Pac-12 play. If UCLA is going to play in a bowl game, they have to win their four remaining games, which is obviously a difficult task.
The good news is that none of the four teams left on UCLA’s schedule are currently ranked. However, all four of them were ranked at some point this season. When all is said and done, the Bruins are going to play 11 of their 12 games against teams that were ranked at one time or another this year, which may explain why they’ve struggled to win games.
If it matters, the Bruins will get a vulnerable Oregon team this week that could be ripe for an upset. The Ducks have lost two games in a row, taking them out of the top-25 and taking away any hope of them winning the Pac-12 North. Last week’s loss was particularly troubling, as Oregon lost 44-15 to an Arizona team that has a losing record.
To make matters worse for the Ducks, starting quarterback Justin Herbert is currently in concussion protocol. His status for Saturday’s game is up in the air. Oregon is also starting to feel some pressure because they are entering November with just five wins. If the Ducks lose their third straight game this weekend, they could be scrambling in late November to find their sixth win and secure a bowl spot.
For what it’s worth, UCLA knocked off Oregon 31-14 in Pasadena last season. Of course, the Ducks had six straight wins over UCLA prior to that. Naturally, Kelly was coaching Oregon for three of those six wins.
It’s worth noting that Kelly didn’t coach any of the players currently on Oregon’s roster, so there’s no competitive advantage with Kelly coming back to Eugene. That being said, I still like UCLA against the spread in this game. I’ve lost my trust in Oregon after last week. It certainly doesn’t help that Herbert may not play. I’ll take my chances with the Bruins at least beating the spread in this game.
If we forget about UCLA’s loss last week to a strong Utah team, the Bruins made some serious strides during the month of October. They played a competitive game with Washington and then scored wins over both Cal and Arizona. In those games, they finally showed signs of being the kind of offensive team Kelly coached at Oregon all those years.
It’s worth noting that freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is still not back from injury. However, backup Wilton Speight did a fine job in leading the Bruins in their win over Arizona, even if he struggled against Utah last week. What Speight lacks in athleticism he makes up for with experience and intelligence.
Also, one week after facing the Utah defense, things are going to be a lot easier for the UCLA offense facing Oregon. The Ducks aren’t terrible defensively. They’ve done enough on that side of the ball to help Oregon score a couple big wins this season. But they’re giving up 33 points per game against Pac-12 opponents, so they’re going to give up points no matter who’s playing quarterback for UCLA.
We also can’t assume the Oregon offense will bounce back after last week’s disastrous outing, especially if Herbert can’t play. Remember, the Ducks were shutout in the first half against Washington State the previous week. Oregon has scored just 35 points combined the last two weeks against a pair of average defenses. They’ve struggled to run the ball in both games and turned the ball over three times last week against Arizona, both of which are concerns moving forward.
To be fair, calling the UCLA defense average would probably be a little hyperbolic. However, they’ve shown marginal improvement over the course of the season. More importantly, I don’t have a lot of confidence in Oregon backup quarterback Braxton Burmeister. He threw six interceptions to just two touchdowns while filling in for Herbert last season. I can’t guarantee he’ll be significantly better this season.
All things considered, I think UCLA was bad in September, decent in October, and set up for a good November. I also think Oregon is moving in the wrong direction heading down the stretch. With Herbert’s status unclear, I have some serious questions about the Ducks. Oregon should find a way to win this game, but I don’t think it’ll be easy and I don’t think it’ll be a comfortable win. I like my chances with UCLA and the points against the spread.