Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:30 AM EST odds are subject to change.
California +11½ over UCLA
FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium – Berkeley, CA
4:30 PM EST, This one ticks all the boxes and we’ll dive deeper into how but we’ll preface this play by highlighting the vulnerable role that a road favorite plays after a tough loss. Last week in Los Angeles, the Bruins hosted hated foe USC in a top-16 showdown that decided the fate of the Pac-12 Championship Game. To the victor goes the spoils (as UCLA could have played its way into the Pac-12 Championship Game if it won) and to the loser goes elimination. UCLA led by as much as 14 points before the Trojans would claw their way back from behind and defeat the Trojans 48-45. USC would go up by 10 in the fourth quarter but the Bruins would draw to within three and even get a chance to tie the game at minimum until the Bruins turned the ball over at mid-field. UCLA was about 15 to 20 yards from potentially sending the game to overtime but instead was picked off and USC escaped. The loss also eliminated any notion of UCLA qualifying for a trip to the big dance next week in Las Vegas. Such a meaningful loss to a bitter rival could be crippling and as such, it would probably take a panel of Hall of Fame motivators to get this team off the mat this week.
Indeed, California is 4-7 but it is a 4-7 that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Bears lost four games this year in either overtime or by one possession. Amongst those that California competed hard in are the following: at #5 USC, #13 Washington, and at #15 Notre Dame. In all three of these games, the Bears led at one point and lost by no more than a converted touchdown. Point is, the Bears are not slouches. They are a battle-tested bunch that can play with the big dogs, California, unlike UCLA will not be going to a bowl this year, thus this year’s festivities in Strawberry Canyon is the bowl game for the Golden Bears and it comes against a cross-state rival. One thing is for sure, Cal will be motivated for this game. They have nothing to lose here and everything to gain. The incentives are ripe for the Golden Bears while we are unsure if UCLA will be equally incentivized in kind.
Nevertheless, one could point out discrepancies in quality between the two sides but we remind everyone that not too long ago, UCLA lost at 4-7 Arizona and they also narrowly escaped South Alabama (a Sun Belt team) in September as a 16-point choice. The Bruins have shown a knack for playing down to their competition and the situational spot they step into would make them even more vulnerable. We would not dare recommend spotting a comprehensive quantity of points to find out otherwise.
California +11½ -107 (Risking 2.14 units - To Win: 2.00)