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Many college football pundits laughed at Arizona State’s decision to hire Herm Edwards to steer the Sun Devils’ football program back in the right direction. Edwards, 64, had not coached professionally since 2008 and had been out of the college ranks since 1989 when he was a defensive assistant at San Jose State. However, he and Sun Devils Athletic Director Ray Anderson had a relationship from the 1990s when Anderson, a former sports agent, represented Edwards while he was a head coach, leaving many people skeptical of the hire. Meanwhile, the media praised UCLA’s hire of Chip Kelly, touting his offensive mind and ability to recruit top prospects on the West Coast. What a difference a few months makes.
Bruins could turn back to Speight this week
UCLA is coming off of another blowout loss on the road against Oregon last week, losing to the Ducks 42-21. Oregon jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter before Dorian Thompson-Robinson connected with Caleb Wilson for a 63-yard touchdown pass to get the Bruins on the board. Thompson-Robinson finished the game 9 of 23 passing for one touchdown and one interception before leaving the game in the third quarter with an unspecified injury. Backup quarterback Wilton Speight took over the reins on offense, completing 13 of 25 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown, while leading two touchdown drives in the second half to help the Bruins salvage some pride on the night.
Wilton Speight to Devin Asiasi for a UCLA TD. And i ain't even mad. pic.twitter.com/w7IC26wFXO
— LG (@LGhail) October 21, 2018
Head coach Chip Kelly spoke about the team’s problems with special teams following the loss to Oregon, but dismissed the idea of having a dedicated special teams coach on his staff. Kelly earned a reputation as an offensive genius while at Oregon, but he has not been able to help get the Bruins anemic offense off the ground yet this year. UCLA comes in scoring just 21.2 points per game and averaging only 362.8 yards of total offense through the first nine games of the season. The Bruins have turned back to Wilton Speight in recent weeks as an injury replacement and the graduate transfer from Michigan got another chance when starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson left last week’s game. After opening the season as the starter, Speight played just one half of football before getting hurt. He’s played well in relief over the past three weeks, throwing for 515 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions off of the bench for UCLA and could get the starting nod for the third time this season on Saturday.
Wilkins, Harry prove to be too much for Utah
Arizona State is fresh off of its second straight convincing win over a PAC-12 opponent after taking down No.15-ranked Utah 38-20 at home last week. Manny Wilkins tossed for 285 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on the day, Elo Benjamin rushed for 175 yards and two scores to help the Sun Devils improve to .500 in conference play this year. All three of Wilkins’ scores went to wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who finished with 161 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The Sun Devils led 21-20 at halftime, but used a 17-0 fourth quarter to seize control of the game and the PAC-12 South Division in the process. Arizona State is just 3-4 in conference play this season, but they own tie-breakers against Utah and USC, while also having a game at Arizona to finish off the year. That game may very well decide which team ends up going to the PAC-12 Championship.
N’Keal Harry can do some incredible things athletically. Don’t overlook Manny Wilkins Jr. throwing the pass, hurdling a defender, and working hard to lead block out in front. Leader.
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) September 2, 2018
Following last week’s beat down of Utah, the Sun Devils now own the tiebreaker with the Utes and are in great position to qualify for the Pac-12 Championship Game. Not bad for a team that the Pac-12 Media Poll had finishing last heading into the regular season. All of a sudden, it seems like Edwards will have the last laugh, as he has the program trending in the right direction far more quickly than anyone had expected.
Quarterback Manny Wilkins comes into the week with 2,250 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and only three interceptions so far this season, while junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry has hauled in 55 catches for 828 receiving yards and nine scores through nine games. While their star QB-WR combo makes all the headlines, the Sun Devils actually have plenty of balance on the offensive side of the ball. Arizona State is averaging 29.8 points and 435.4 yards of total offense, including 185.4 yards per game on the ground this year. The Sun Devils have also been stout on the defensive side of the ball, limiting opposing teams to just 22.4 points and 379.2 yards of total offense per game.
- Sun Devils are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 conference games.
- Sun Devils are 13-6 ATS in their last 19 games overall.
- Sun Devils are 33-16-2 ATS in their last 51 home games vs. a team with a losing road record.
- Bruins are 3-8-1 ATS in their last 12 games after allowing more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
- Bruins are 5-17 ATS in their last 22 games after allowing more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
- Bruins are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games on grass.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Double-digit defeats are starting to become a trend under Chip Kelly at UCLA. The Bruins are getting outscored by more than 12 points per game so far this season and they are being out-gained by 65 yards per game. Arizona State has scored 38 points in back-to-back games against formidable opponents in USC and Utah, which has me leaning towards this game being a blowout. The Sun Devils can control their destiny down the stretch of the season and earn a trip to the PAC-12 Championship by winning their final three games. Take ASU to cover the number at home in this spot on Saturday.
Prediction: Pick: Arizona State -13.5
Full-Game Total Pick
These two PAC-12 rivals have gone over the projected total in six of their last eight meetings and the Sun Devils have gone over the projected total in each of their last five contests against a team with a losing record. Manny Wilkins and N’Keal Harry should have their way against a Bruins defense giving up 438 yards of total offense per game this season. Arizona State has also gotten their ground game going this year, averaging 185 rush yards per game, which bodes well against a UCLA front-seven that has been dominated at the point of attack all season long. Take the over in this matchup at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Prediction: Over 59.5
Half-Time Side Pick
Given the way Thompson-Robinson has played as of late and considering the fact he’s been dealing with a myriad of injuries in recent weeks, I would expect Speight to be the starter for UCLA in this game. While he has been the better passer this season, traditionally the graduate transfer from Michigan has traditionally struggled in big games throughout his collegiate career. Arizona State’s defense has improved by leaps and bounds this season, while the offense has found balance with Eno Benjamin running the football. Take Arizona State to cover the spread in the first half of this game on Saturday afternoon.
Prediction: Arizona State -7
Half-Time Total Bet
UCLA has been brutal this season and I don’t see them turning things around with Speight under center this week. With a week to prepare for the graduate transfer, look for Herm Edwards and this Sun Devils defense to cause all sorts of problems for him in this game. Take the under in this PAC-12 matchup in Tempe on Saturday afternoon.
Prediction: Under 32