BIGGEST TEST YET FOR FROSH JOSH ROSEN WHEN #9 UCLA VISITS #16 ARIZONA ON ABC
College Football 2015 began with a lot of hype for UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen. He was a big story entering the season...then put on a non-stop highlight show in his nationally televised season opener against Virginia. Was he a Heisman Trophy candidate already?!
He's been pretty awful since then. Rosen had disappointing stats in an easy road win at UNLV, then looked every bit a freshman last week as UCLA rallied late to survive BYU. He threw three interceptions...and was basically the anvil preventing the Bruins from looking anything the 15-point favorite the market had priced them as.
UCLA is still undefeated, and #9 in the nation. But, there are legitimate questions now about whether or not the team is deserving of all the hype. They open Pac 12 play Saturday night in Tempe...in a game that will be nationally televised by ABC. Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about the matchup...
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
UCLA: 3-0 (beating Virginia, UNLV, BYU)
Arizona: 3-0 (beating Texas-San Antonio, Nevada, Northern Arizona)
UCLA has played the much tougher schedule, and is therefore much more battle-tested than Arizona. In fact...there should be even more serious concerns about whether or not Arizona is a top 20 team! They had ugly stats vs. UTSA...and otherwise took care of business against teams that didn't present threats. USC has already been exposed as overrated in a bad loss to Stanford last Saturday night in this same TV spot (as called by Jim Hurley with his monster SHOCKER winner!). Arizona State lost to Texas A&M in disappointing fashion. Was the whole Pac 12 South overrated?! Edge here to UCLA for running the table vs. the tougher slate.
UCLA: 6.2 on offense, 4.4 on defense
Arizona: 7.6 on offense, 5.0 on defense
Arizona hasn't played anybody yet...so those stats may not mean much at all. You have to be impressed with UCLA's defense...because allowing only 4.4 yards-per-play vs. BYU and Virginia is some real football. Yes, injuries are becoming an issue. But...it seems very likely that UCLA will have a big edge on the defensive side of the ball. Let the media worry about Josh Rosen. Be a smart handicapper/bettor and spend some time studying the defenses!
2014 Turnover Differential
It's tempting to throw those numbers out because Arizona's been coasting. But, you can't really throw out the -2 for UCLA given that this is the first tough road site Rosen has played out. He self-destructed last week at him vs. a quality opponent. Visiting UNLV isn't brutal because the Rebels don't draw well. This is HOSTILE territory for Rosen...and turnovers could be a factor. In fact, that's probably the single biggest issue keeping the pointspread from rising. Many are afraid to lay points on the road with a mistake-prone quarterback.
2014 Market Performance
UCLA: 1-2 ATS
Arizona: 2-1 ATS
UCLA missed the mark in the Virginia game on a garbage-time TD from the visitor...but then missed by a mile last week vs. BYU. Arizona has basically played a full season of garbage time! Looks like the Bruins were overrated out of the gate. Arizona is untested vs. real competition.
UCLA: Josh Rosen (61-100-4-680 with 5 TDs against a representative schedule)
Arizona: Anu Solomon (71-104-0-778 with 10 TDs vs. a very easy schedule)
Let's talk about Anu Solomon for a few seconds. He has a lot of big play potential, but is also very erratic. He can be a real playmaker vs. bad defenses. When stepping up in class, he loses accuracy and throws more interceptions. He had an amazingly bad passing line of 18-48-1-175 in last year's game against UCLA. He's a year more mature now...but may still be a guy you need to fade vs. good defenses. Frankly, Saturday night's game is a big test for BOTH quarterbacks.
Current Line: UCLA by 3, total of 66
Very interesting line in this one. You can paint a very rosy scenario for UCLA that focuses on their defensive advantages and their strong running game. They have a legitimate chance to take this game by the throat and dominate because of that and their experience in battle already. But, the market is clearly giving Arizona respect for its home field and potential ability to force miscues from Rosen. It could really blow up in either direction. Either Arizona gets exposed as a pretender...or Rosen gets exposed as a freshman who still has a lot of learning to do.
JIM HURLEY and his full team of experts did a lot of preliminary work in the Pac 12 this past summer knowing that it was going to be such an important conference in the rankings and on TV. That's part of why Stanford (+) jumped out so strongly last week! He just might have another TV MONSTER for you here in this matchup on Saturday's card. Though...this week's schedule in particularly has a lot of interesting possibilities. (Other Pac 12 thrillers like Utah/Oregon and USC/Arizona State are very much on the radar!)
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Back to the NFL for the next few NOTEBOOK reports...
Sunday: NFL TV Preview...Denver at Detroit
Monday: NFL TV Preview...Kansas City at Green Bay
Midweek: NFL TV Preview...Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Friday-Saturday: College Football TV Preview...Alabama at Georgia
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