The first full Saturday of the 2021 college football season is upon us. Part of the action includes the LSU Tigers taking a trip out west to take on the UCLA Bruins on Saturday evening (7:30 p.m. CT, Fox). Ed Orgeron’s squad sits at No. 16 in the AP Top 25. UCLA is unranked.
This is LSU’s opening game of the season, while UCLA already has a game under its belt. The Bruins defeated Hawaii 44-10 last Saturday, covering the point spread as 17.5-point favorites. Despite UCLA’s 34-point win, the Tigers still find themselves as slight favorites over the Bruins.
LSU VS. UCLA Odds
Here are the betting lines for Saturday’s contest as of Wednesday, September 1 from two sportsbooks, including spread, over/under, and moneyline. Bettors should shop around for the best lines for their plays. For example, BetMGM has LSU listed as a 3-point favorite, while FanDuel offers the Tigers at -2.5. That half a point could be huge.
|LSU||-3 (-110)||-155||Over 65 (-110)|
|UCLA||+3 (-110)||+125||Under 65 (-110)|
|LSU||-2.5 (-112)||-140||Over 65.5 (-104)|
|UCLA||+2.5 (-108)||+114||Under 65.5 (-118)|
The spread has tightened from the 4 to 4.5 range it hovered around in early wagering this summer. The odds imply this should be a close game, and it figures to be an entertaining matchup.
UCLA Bruins Overview
It could be now or never for Chip Kelly. Kelly has not had much success at UCLA through his first three seasons. He went just 10-21 from 2018-2020, and 2021 could be a make-or-break season.
UCLA went 3-4 in 2020 (4-3 against the spread), and all four losses were by six points or less. A few lucky bounces and their season could have been very different.
The good news is that Kelly has an experienced roster to work with. UCLA returns 20 starters from last year’s team, including 10 on each side of the ball. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is back for his fourth season as the team’s starting quarterback, and that kind of experience is invaluable.
Leading receiver Greg Dulcich is also back, and his connection with Thompson-Robinson has gotten better each season. Kyle Phillips was second in the Pac-12 with 38 catches last season, and both he and Dulcich can create problems for opposing defenses.
All five starters on the offensive line are back. UCLA averaged 35.4 points per game last year (the most in the Pac-12), and the offense could be even better this season.
The problems for UCLA have mostly come on the defensive side of the ball. There are still a lot of question marks about what the secondary will look like, but holding Hawaii to 10 points last week is a good start.
However, the Bruins could have a tough challenge going up against LSU on Saturday.
LSU Tigers Overview
Coach O returns for his sixth season in Baton Rouge. He has compiled a record of 45-14 and led the 2019 team on a historic National Championship run. The Tigers went 5-5 in 2020, and they are looking to take a big step forward in 2021.
Sophomore QB Max Johnson will lead the Tiger offense. The lefty showed his youth at times last year, but he came up big in wins over Florida and Ole Miss to end the season. He protected the ball well, as he threw just one interception in 150 pass attempts on the year.
Kayshon Boutte led the team with 735 receiving yards and five scores last season. He returns alongside Jaray Jenkins, who averaged over 17 yards per catch. The rest of the receiving core is a bit inexperienced, but there is a lot of high-end talent ready to roll.
Much like UCLA, LSU had its share of problems on defense last season. However, the Tigers do have a pair of elite playmakers that give them the edge. Derek Stingley Jr. might be the best defensive player in all of college football. He is a true lockdown corner, and it would not be surprising if he is taken early in next year’s NFL Draft.
Eli Ricks is another shutdown corner on the LSU defense. Ricks was an All-American in 2020, and he returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns. Together, he and Stingley Jr. can present matchup nightmares for opposing receivers.
UCLA played a lot of close games last season. The odds are reflective of that with a small point spread in this matchup. UCLA has momentum from its season-opening win against Hawaii, but LSU is not Hawaii. The Tigers are ranked in the Top 25 for a reason, and they can present some serious problems for the Bruins.
Kelly has yet to find a signature win while at UCLA, and getting one here could be tough. His offense may have some upside, but his defense has struggled to keep points off the board. UCLA ranked 113th in the country in passing defense last season, giving up 274.1 passing yards per game. LSU’s offense seems to be in a favorable position.
LSU also appears to have a slight edge on defense with two of the best shutdown corners in the SEC. Thompson-Robinson will make some big plays, but LSU should be able to tighten things up down the stretch. Consider backing LSU -2.5, or on the moneyline if you don’t want to worry about the points.