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Texas A&M Aggies vs. UCLA Bruins Point Spread - Pick

Texas A&M Aggies (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. UCLA Bruins (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Sunday, September 3, 2017 at 7:30PM EST
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
TV: Fox

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: TAM +4.5/UCLA -4.5
Over/Under Total: 55.5

The Texas A&M Aggies come out to the Rose Bowl to face the UCLA Bruins on Sunday in week one action. Both teams have big hopes for the upcoming season and a win here would be a positive step in that direction for either team. The Aggies are looking to make a move in the SEC after a string of seasons characterized by late collapses. UCLA, meanwhile, is coming off a brutal season and looks to instill some positivity into the program this season. Step one is a tough one against an A&M team that always seems to start fast. These teams also opened their 2016 campaigns with this same matchup, as the Aggies won, 31-24, in overtime.

The Aggies' coaching staff is feeling some heat. Head coach Kevin Sumlin has seen his team follow a disturbing pattern of great starts and not-so-great finishes the past several seasons. And big-money defensive coordinator John Chavis has yet to see his handiwork on that side of the ball really manifest. Still, offense is a big part of the Texas A&M recipe for success. And as game-week comes upon us, they still haven't named a starting quarterback. The job will go to Jake Hubernak, Nick Starkel, or Keller Mond. There are things to like about any of these guys. Hubernak has some starting experience with this team, Starkel is more of a pro-style guy, while Mond is a burgeoning dual-threat type of quarterback.

Whoever ends up behind center for the Aggies will be able to rely upon a good offensive line that returns Eric McCoy, Connor Lanfear, and Colton Prater—a versatile trio of big men up-front. They should be able to ease the entry of a pair of new tackles in Keaton Sutherland and Koda Martin. They should be pretty good at a minimum and really good if things shake out well. It helps whatever QB ends up back there, in addition to a robust run-game led by Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford. With Williams' quickness and nimbleness, coupled with Ford's power-running, A&M should be able to rely on this part of their game in a big way. Aerially, they lost a lot of juice. At least they still have one of their better ball-catchers in Christian Kirk, who caught 83 balls last season. But no other receiver returns with over 20 catches and they could use a boost from their young guys, especially top prospect Jhamon Ausbon.

Watching the Aggies' defense last season was depressing at times, particularly as they managed to give up nearly 200 rushing yards per game, even with blue-chippers Daeshon Hall and eventual top draft pick Myles Garrett manning the line. They should still be decent inside with Zaycoven Henderson and Kingsley Keke, but it's time for Daylon Mack to unleash the full scope of his potential.

At linebacker for A&M, Anthony Hines and Buddy Johnson are two youngsters that will be relied upon heavily, along with Otaro Alaka, who adds some versatility to the second level. And there are also issues with a secondary that wasn't too good last season and lost their big banger in safety Justin Evans. A transfer from UCLA, ironically, will be depended upon in Priest Willis (questionable), along with big-talent safety Armani Watts. Needless to say, there are problem areas on this side of the ball and Chavis really needs to start earning his money.

Still, for all the Aggies' issues, they can at least say they didn't win 4 games last season, as the 4-8 Bruins really hit a wall in '16. QB Josh Rosen suffering a season-ending injury halfway through the season didn't help. They expect big things from him this season. Rosen's 3 picks against this A&M team in game one of last season was a big part of why they didn't win. Maybe the QB many felt would be an eventual top pick in the NFL draft can put it together better this season.

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Some things are in place for Rosen, including an offensive line that returns 85 starts. They hope to keep Rosen healthy this season and spring a run-game that was pedestrian in '16. They averaged less than 85 yards per game and guys like Nate Starks, Soso Jamabo, and Bolo Olorunfunmi are now out of excuses if they don't produce. Also adding promise on offense is the return of their top two receivers Darren Andrews and Jordan Lasley. Maybe UCLA sprinter Eldridge Washington can become an X-factor.

After a 4-win season, one would assume the Bruins' defense was a major culprit, but they actually stopped it from being even worse. Six of those guys are now in the NFL and big voids loom on this side of the ball. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner is a fine anchor on the line at tackle, but freshman Jaelan Phillips really needs to blossom or the voids of Eddie Vanderdoes and Takkarist McKinley will be felt in spades. Voids exist at linebacker, where Kenny Young is a nice piece in the middle, along with Josh Woods. One of the best secondaries in the conference was fleeced of two top guys, but maybe S Jaleel Wadood, CB Nate Meadors, Adarius Pickett, and top recruit Darnay Holmes can fashion a unit that resembles last season's group.

Granted, Texas A&M has issues. But so does UCLA, who lost a ton of pieces on defense. This is a tough road spot for the Aggies in a week one game and even a not-so-good UCLA team managed to take them to overtime at College Station last season. And that was with A&M having a cemented QB in Trevor Knight. But Texas A&M has done well in these week one matchups against Pac-12 schools of late and are usually really good early in the season in general. We're taking the points.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Texas A&M Aggies plus 4.5 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Texas A&M vs. UCLA game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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