The UCLA Bruins face the Boise State Broncos kicks off this Saturday (12/16/23) at 7:30pm EST in Los Angeles, California as the host site for the LA Bowl. Get UCLA vs. Boise State predictions and best bets below as our best bet is UCLA -4 as the Bruins appear poised to take advantage of the Broncos massive identity changes.
UCLA Vs. Boise State Prediction
When it comes to pregame opt outs and transfers, UCLA vs Boise State is one of the first examples of it as this game features massive identity changes. Broncos quarterback Taylen Green has already entered the transfer portal and committed to Arkansas while UCLA’s star edge rusher Laiatu Latu has opted out in preparation for the NFL Draft. To be up to date on news involving transfers, opt outs, and injury status, you can read it all here as Lineups football analyst Jacob Wayne constantly updates this page throughout the month.
While bowl season usually revolves around news of players leaving the team or opting out for the NFL Draft, Boise State is one of the rare exceptions where they have also received good news. That news is in light of stud running back Ashton Jeanty announcing that he will be back for another year, as well as declaring he will play in this bowl game. A massive boost in production as Jeanty was a focal point of this offense as the team’s leading rusher.
Jeanty ran wild all season, finishing the year rushing for 1,262 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. He is more than just a pure running back as he also hauled in 39 receptions for another 552 yards and five receiving touchdowns. His production helped contribute to Boise’s offensive metrics that ended the year ranked 11th in Rush Success Rate, 15th in Rush PPA, 46th in Rush Explosiveness.
The issue is that Jeanty may be asked to carry too much of a load as Boise’s offense will be without Taylen Green and backup quarterback Maddux Madsen. That means Boise State will most likely turn towards CJ Tiller, a true freshman who did not log a single snap this season. Expect a heavier dose of the run from Boise’s offense, a style of offense that will most likely struggle against the Bruins elite defense. UCLA finished the year ranked 31st in Def Rush Success Rate, second in Def Rush PPA, and fourth in Def Rush Explosiveness.
As for the Bruins offense, Dante Moore has entered the transfer portal while Ethan Garbers returns from injury. That actually gives them a boost in the pass attack as Moore mightily struggled with turnovers. Defending Pass Explosiveness has been an issue for Boise State, and they may be prone to getting burnt at a routine rate in this contest as they also have to stack the box against running back Carson Steele.
UCLA Vs. Boise State Prediction: UCLA -4
UCLA Vs. Boise State Best Odds
Before a plethora of opt outs and transfer news dominated this game, oddsmakers originally had the Bruins pegged as a -2.5 favorite. That number has since been bet up to as high as -5 in some shops, now ticking back down to the universal number of -4. Boise brings a lot of uncertainty with their true freshman, having the daunting task of figuring out the UCLA defense.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 49.5. Bettors have yet to take a firm stand on either side of the total, keeping the number the same since the opener. With massive identity changes from both units heading into this contest, this is an immediate pass at the current number.
UCLA Vs. Boise State Key Matchups
Can Carson Steele find rush success against the Broncos front seven?
Carson Steele Vs. Boise State Front Seven
With Ethan Garbers expected to make his return under center, that immediately gives Carson Steele a boost in production as he gets the benefit of running against a thinned out second level of the defense. He has missed two consecutive practices this week, making it worth monitoring his status leading up to kickoff.
Truck stick activated.
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This issue for Steele this season is that he found himself against stacked boxes as Dante Moore struggled to stretch the defense. This led to Bruins rushing metrics of 56th in Rush Success Rate, 44th in PPA, and 42nd in Explosiveness. Luckily for Steele, the Broncos already struggle to defend the run by ranking 54th in Def Rush Success Rate, 64th in PPA, and 86th in Explosiveness. Expect Steele to find more success against a thinned-out defense by churning out sizable gains at a time.