UCLA is set to take on the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday night, as the 12th-ranked Bruins will look to come out of the bye week swinging against a Utes team that looks much-improved.
With the Bruins disposing of their non-conference schedule rather easily, it would seem like the Bruins would be big favorites over the Utes, who lost to Oregon State and struggled against a struggling BYU team.
That isn’t the case. The Bruins instead have opened as just four-point favorites over the Utes.
The reasons for that are wide-ranging. While UCLA looks much better than they did last year, they didn’t look wholly impressive against New Mexico State at the Rose Bowl last Saturday, and committed far more penalties than they’d like. Meanwhile, the Utes don’t look like the Pac-12 floormat that they were last year, and though they did struggle with BYU (and lost to an Oregon State team that looks wildly inconsistent), Utah looks ready to be competitive in the conference.
Consider, too, that the state of Utah hasn’t been friendly to UCLA in years past. The Bruins have lost in their last three trips to the state, with two losses coming at the hands of the Utes and one loss coming from BYU (a 59-0 debacle, back when the Bruins were ranked 23rd in the country, the only time a Rick Neuheisel-coached UCLA squad was ranked).
Of course, this UCLA team is much different and the Utes are no longer BCS busters. Things have changed.
Four days til gameday.