Jason Radowitz hands out his best bet for an exciting Week 1 College Football match-up between the UCLA Bruins and the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Week 1 of the College Football season begins on Thursday with UCLA making the trip to Nippert Stadium on Thursday in Cincinnati. UCLA went 3-9 last season but they’ll return 19 starters. The UCLA Bruins will have higher expectations this year as they look to make a drastic improvement after an interesting season last year. The Cincinnati Bearcats can put up points in the AAC but so will the Bruins who will not have their first full year of Chip Kelly and his offense. The Bearcats won this same exact match-up last season by the score of 26-17 and then went on to go 11-2 on the season. They won their bowl game against Virginia Tech.
UCLA had its struggles last season after going 3-9 last season. Head Coach Chip Kelly, in his return to college football, accumulated three conference wins, most notably against USC. Chip Kelly has been a great recruiter which has the media and college football fans excited for this next season after a full year of Chip Kelly.
UCLA will start Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback. He’ll be taking on his second year as UCLA’s quarterback after getting the start his freshman season behind an awful and inexperienced offensive line. UCLA will have quite a few offensive lineman returning which will help running back Joshua Kelley toward his potential ceiling. The receiving group of UCLA should be deep and formidable for UCLA. They’ll grow as the season continues.
If they’re going to want to get to a bowl game this season, consistency should be preached. It’s hard enough throwing out a freshman quarterback with little-to-no help. Ask Rutgers’ Art Sitkowski who had a worse year than Thompson-Robinson. Usually sophomore years for inconsistent quarterbacks (with skill) are a lot better the next go-around.
On the defensive end, the Bruins are not in the best of shape. They’ve lost two key pieces in the secondary. They’ve also had tons of trouble trying to stop the run. If teams exploit their defense early, it will be another long season for UCLA.
Cincinnati has went from 4 wins in 2017 to 11 wins last season. The Bearcats offense should be what they were last year, if not better. They’ll return sophomore Desmond Ridder, the pro-style quarterback who threw 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions on the year last season. He had just under 2,500 yards throwing the ball. As a freshman, he completed almost 63 percent of his passes and led Cincy to an incredible season. Behind Ridder, Cincy will feature their powerful running back in Michael Warren II who ran for over 1,300 yards and scored 13 touchdowns on the year, good for T-5th in college football. They’ll also return two of their starting wide receivers – the same receivers Ridder was comfortable with last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bearcats will return eight starters. The same defense that stopped UCLA to 17 points in the first game of last season. UCLA accumulated just over 300 yards of total offense. James Wiggins of the Bearcats had four interceptions last season. In October of 2018, the Bearcats ranked second in scoring defense behind just Alabama. Chip Kelly and the UCLA offense could be improving but that Bearcats defense could also be improving.
If you’re betting on UCLA, you likely spend a ton of money on the lottery. Cincinnati is returning most of their team after an 11-2 season where they just got better and better and better as the season went on. The Cincy defense has their way and their offense has quality at every position.
UCLA’s offense will be better. They’ll score points a lot faster, but I’m not banking on a 3-win team defeating an 11-win team. It’s only -3 at home, meaning oddsmakers believe this game is a PICK if it were at a neutral stadium. I don’t see it.
Cincinnati -3 -110 @FanDuel