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California Golden Bears vs. UCLA Bruins Point Spread - Pick

California Golden Bears (5-6 SU, 7-4 ATS) vs. UCLA Bruins (5-6 SU, 4-7 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date/Time: Friday, November 24, 2017 at 10:30PM EST
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
TV: Fox Sports 1

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: CAL +7/UCLA -7
Over/Under Total: 64

The California Golden Bears come to the Rose Bowl on Friday to face the UCLA Bruins in Pac-12 action. The Bruins and the Cal Bears both lost narrowly last week and the winner of this game should be assured of a bowl spot, changes in the bowl landscape notwithstanding. Each team enters this game at 5-6 and would like a win to even up their record. On Saturday, UCLA lost, 28-23, to the USC Trojans. Cal, meanwhile, gave Stanford a go, before falling 17-14. Both teams covered the spread on Saturday. Almost exactly a year ago, the Cal Bears put a 35-10 beating on the Bruins. A lot has changed since then and the Bruins should be expected to be better than that this time around. Who can get the big win at the Rose Bowl on Friday night?

Cal gave it a strong effort against a good Stanford team in a defensive struggle on Saturday. Cal's defense allowed a big TD run to Stanford's Bryce Love with about 9 minutes left in the third quarter, but held the Cardinal scoreless for the remainder of the game. The offense wasn't really able to thrive, however, and after narrowing it to 17-14 in the third quarter, neither team got on the board again. But even in defeat, the loss showed the changing sensibilities on the Cal sideline under first-year head coach Justin Wilcox. They lack the offensive firepower of the last several seasons, they are a more-complete team with a defense that can hold their own in certain spots.

Cal quarterback Ross Bowers wasn't great on Saturday, with 182 yards, no touchdowns, and a pick. He got a big performance from go-to back Patrick Laird, who ran for 153 yards and a TD against a good Stanford defense. He also had 47 yards receiving, with top Cal receivers Jordan Veasy and Vic Wharton, III. chiming in with some production. They have been able to put up some points against good conference opposition in the right spots, including 37 against Washington State and 44 against Arizona. So while they were stymied in long stretches against Stanford, things could go a little better against a dicey UCLA defense.

To say the Cal defense is good would be pushing it a bit, but they are vastly improved. They gave up only three to Washington State and in their last two conference games, they allowed a combined total of 40 points. So we see a Cal defense that has been able to upgrade their play this season and at least not allow feeding frenzies to every marginally-effective offense they face. They lost LB Devante Downs, which was a big setback, but linebackers Jordan Kunaszyk and Raymond Davison can make a difference, along with James Looney up-front. Unlike past seasons, this side of the ball can make nice contributions to the overall team effort.

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UCLA is coming off a 4-win season and getting their 6th win here and getting into a bowl would be big. Apparently, the small surge this season was not enough to save Jim Mora, who was canned following the loss to the Trojans, with Jed Fisch taking over for the rest of the way. Against USC, they never led the game. But against a Trojans team that appeared to be peaking over the past several weeks, they hung in there the whole time. QB Josh Rosen was big on the day, though a few turnovers were costly. And after giving up two touchdowns in the first quarter, the defense did pretty well—all things considering. They weren't run over by the USC run-game as some suspected. They covered the spread by a considerable margin, showing they still have enough in the tank to shine in this regular season finale at home.

Josh Rosen put up some big numbers on Saturday, going for 421 yards and three touchdowns. A fumble and a pick cost them, but they still outgained the USC offense with 501 total yards. Still, being so prolific on offense and going 11-for-20 on third and fourth down conversions, while winning the time-of-possession battle, one would think they'd be able to put up more than 23 points. Again, the turnovers and a slew of penalties were key, as was a missed field goal. Still, they got a huge performance from WR Jordan Lasley, who has been dazzling in recent games. On Saturday, he caught 10 balls for 204 yards and three touchdowns. Theo Howard caught 11 passes, while Austin Roberts had 70 yards receiving. Even Bolo Olorunfunmi and Soso Jamabo had some production out of the backfield, going for a combined 118 yards. But again, that's an awful lot of highlights for 23 points of offense.

The Bruins' defense has been an extreme liability this season and it is how a team that averages over 34 points a game can be below .500. This season, we've seen them shredded by run-games to the tune of nearly 300 yards a game. But they can spring forth with some surprises from time to time, like holding a red-hot Ronald Jones and the USC run-game to 153 yards rushing on 43 carries on Saturday. And holding an apparently-peaking USC offense to 14 points in the last three quarters shows they divert from their typical form occasionally. The Cal offense certainly presents some matchup issues with a Bruins' "D" that has been run over a lot this season. But some small glimpses of hope were offered by how they performed against Southern Cal on Saturday.

It's worth noting that the Bruins' 6 losses all occurred on the road this season, as they are actually unbeaten at the Rose Bowl. Among the teams they've beaten at home include Colorado, Oregon, and Arizona State. That shows they are right within their element with a visiting Cal squad. Cal, meanwhile, is 0-4 on the road in the Pac-12 this season. That might be too convenient of a takeaway, but at the same time, I see an NFL-bound Josh Rosen looking to shine and making life hard on a Cal team that won't be able to keep pace. It's unclear how the firing of Mora will resonate, but I see UCLA getting some late separation and notching the win.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the UCLA Bruins minus 7 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Cal vs. UCLA game from home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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