UCLA Bruins vs. Stanford Cardinal Odds & Game Pick (2021)

Sep 23, 2021 - 10:20 AM

The Stanford Cardinal (2-1) hosts the No. 24 UCLA Bruins (2-1) in their first true home game since Week 2 of 2020. This will be each teams’ Pac-12 opener and UCLA’s first road game of the season. The Bruins could’ve been looking ahead to this game when they lost to the Fresno State Bulldogs 40-37. UCLA won and covered its first two games against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and LSU Tigers. On the other hand, Stanford bounced back from an embarrassing 24-7 in Week 1 to the Kansas State Wildcats. The Cardinal has won and covered its past two games, on the road, against the USC Trojans and Vanderbilt Commodores.

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  • Opening Line: UCLA -3
  • Current Line: UCLA -4.5
  • Over/Under (O/U): 58.5
  • Location: Stanford Stadium
  • Start Time: Saturday, September 25, 2021, 6:00 p.m. ET


David Shaw succeeded Jim Harbaugh as Stanford’s head coach in 2011. Chip Kelly has been at the controls of UCLA’s football program since 2018.

  • Stanford is 33-27 against the spread (ATS) at home in the Shaw era and 5-3 ATS as a home underdog with a plus-10.2-point spread differential. The Cardinal also has the highest cover rate against conference foes in the Pac-12 at 53-35-4 ATS since 2011.
  • UCLA has lost in its only game as a road favorite since Kelly was hired. The Bruins are 7-6-1 ATS on the road and 12-11-2 ATS in Pac-12 play dating back to the beginning of 2018.
  • Also, these teams are 1-1-1 ATS since Kelly took the UCLA gig. But, Stanford has won two of those meetings outright, including a 48-47 overtime thriller last season. Otherwise, this head-to-head series has been all Stanford since Shaw became the coach. Stanford is 10-1 overall and ATS vs. UCLA since 2011.

Action report

*Betting splits pulled from Pregame.com’s Game Center*

A slight majority of the handle is on UCLA’s spread (56% of the bets), but close to 65% of the cash is on the Bruins covering. This pro-Bruins action has moved UCLA up from a 3- to a 4.5-point favorite. However, we have significant reverse line movement in the market for the total. UCLA-Stanford opened with a 61-point total and has been brought down to 58.5 despite almost heavy action on the Over.

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Simply put, Stanford owns UCLA. Sure, things could be different with Kelly at UCLA. But, through Kelly’s first three seasons in the Pac-12, the Bruins are 1-2 against the Cardinal. More importantly, Shaw has been one of the most consistent head coaches in college football over the past 11 seasons. Stanford has the best ATS record in Pac-12 games over that span for a reason.

Also, Stanford is third in explosive rate on offense in non-garbage time (out of 65 Power 5 teams), but UCLA is right behind them at fourth. However, Stanford’s defense ranks 11th in explosive rate in non-garbage time, while UCLA’s defense is 43rd out of 65 charted teams. That kind of jives with why I like Stanford in this spot. Both offenses have pop, but Shaw does a better job of not giving up the big play than Kelly.

Furthermore, I’m willing to give UCLA a pass for losing at home to a feisty Fresno State team. But, we have to do the same for Stanford and its stinker in the season opener against No. 25 Kansas State. I’m more bullish about Stanford’s mulligan because its current starting quarterback, Tanner McKee, was the backup entering Week 1. McKee ended up replacing Stanford senior QB Jack West against Kansas State after he threw two interceptions. Despite not doing much in Stanford’s loss to Kansas State, McKee is completing 71.4% of his passes with a 5 TD to 0 INT ratio and a 163.4 QB Rating. McKee stabilizing Stanford’s offense has helped the ground game. For instance, Stanford gained just 39 rushing yards in Week 1. But Stanford racked up 141 yards vs. an awesome USC rush defense and 204 rushing yards against Vanderbilt.

I’m buying stock on the McKee-Shaw quarterback-coach tandem, and who knows how sharp all that UCLA money is? The Bruins ranked with Chip Kelly at the gears feels trendy. I’ll take my chances with Stanford, Shaw, a good quarterback, and getting points at home. If anything, Stanford should be a slight favorite.

Pick: Stanford +5 (-120 for 1 unit)

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Geoff Clark is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Geoff, check out his archive and follow him @Geoffery_Clark.

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