UCLA vs San Diego State Odds, Picks, and Predictions: Bruins Pounce on Aztecs

San Diego State may have a donut in the loss column through two contests, but the wins haven't been very convincing. Now with a hungry UCLA team in town, our college football picks expect a mauling of the Aztecs.

JD Yonke - Contributor at Covers.com
JD Yonke • Contributor
Sep 8, 2023 • 12:53 ET • 4 min read
Dante Moore UCLA Bruins
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Week 2 on the college football odds board is jampacked from top to bottom with great games. After a slate of mostly uninteresting non-conference matchups in Week 1, the tables have turned just a week later. 

One intriguing matchup on the board out west featured Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins and Brady Hoke’s San Diego State Aztecs, who will meet at Snapdragon Stadium on Saturday night. 

Despite the 2-0 record, the Aztecs haven’t looked very promising to start the year and therefore could be in for a rude surprise from the visiting Bruins, who have had a week to figure out their quarterback competition. 

Does the Pac-12 continue its dominance over the Moutain West this season? Check out my answer to that question and more in my full college football picks for UCLA vs. San Diego State on Saturday,  September 9.

UCLA vs San Diego State best odds

UCLA vs San Diego State picks and predictions

I’ve been less than impressed with SDSU thus far. First, the Aztecs barely held on against Ohio despite the Bobcats losing star quarterback Kurtis Rourke early in the contest. SDSU was still outgained 390 to 318 and the outcome of the game is likely different if Rourke remained healthy and his backup doesn’t toss three picks. The Bobcats still managed nine more first downs than the Aztecs (25 to 16). 

Then, the Aztecs were 34-point favorites over the Idaho State Bengals but had more penalty yards (138 on 14 penalties) than passing yards (87) in a sloppy 36-28 victory. Cover your eyes when they’re on offense.

There’s a level of uncertainty in this handicap in that UCLA has not settled on a starting QB. Fourth-year player Ethan Garbers got the starting nod in the opener but looked utterly lost, going 10-for-17 passing for 121 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions with an AY/A of just 3.0. True freshman five-star Dante Moore came on in relief and looked superb, throwing for 143 yards on just 12 attempts (11.5 AY/A) with two touchdowns and one interception.

It seems evident who should start and receive the overwhelming majority of reps, but it’s unclear who actually will. Kelly is notoriously tight lipped and does not give the media any insight into his actual plans, but it’s evident to me he has little faith in Garbers considering he stated the veteran won the starting nod simply because “someone has to take the first snap”. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement. 

Kelly certainly knows how to coach offense and Moore looks like the real deal at QB. It’ll help to have a potent running back duo in Carson Steele and TJ Harden on hand to do the heavy lifting, and Cal transfer J. Michael Sturdivant looks the part of an early NFL Draft pick. 

A lot of people will likely look at this wide and believe that it’s wide. SDSU is playing at home and typically keeps games close, right? How often do the Aztecs lose by two touchdowns? Well, they played two Pac-12 teams a year ago and lost to Arizona 38-20 and to Utah 35-7. 

This isn’t the same team we saw go 12-2 in 2021 including a 2-0 record against the Pac-12. I still have a ton of questions about the offense and the defense, while still good, is probably not elite like it was a year ago considering most of the key pieces have since departed. 

The Pac-12 entered this season as the butt of everyone’s jokes, but they flipped the tables with a 13-0 start to the season and I believe have been vastly underrated in 2023 in what is a quality conference of teams in the top half.

This is a game that UCLA should win with relative ease. Hopefully, Kelly doesn’t test out the Garbers experiment much longer and he lets this offense cook under its field general of the present and future. 

My best bet: UCLA -13.5 (-122 at FanDuel)

UCLA vs San Diego State same-game parlay

UCLA -13.5

SDSU team total Under 17.5

This SGP is a two legger centered around my best bet on UCLA against the spread. 

I’ll add SDSU to go Under its team total of 17.5 as the second leg. The Aztecs have been entirely underwhelming offensively thus far in two games under new offensive coordinator Ryan Lindley. QB Jalen Mayden, who moved over from safety a year ago, has led a passing attack that has mustered just 249 yards through the air — far less than the 601 passing yards that they’ve allowed to opponents. 

I’m not sure what there is to believe in offensively for the Aztecs. They may not be able to run the ball consistently after how good UCLA’s front looked in Week 1 under Lynn. The Bruins are most vulnerable through the air where they ranked 114th in passing success rate a year ago, but SDSU does not have the weapons in the passing attack to make them pay. 

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UCLA vs San Diego State spread and Over/Under analysis

There is a little variation in the market for this line, so be sure to shop around before placing your wager. Most books are showing UCLA -14.5, but -13.5 is also available at the time of this writing. Every point matters!

I think there’s clear evidence San Diego State is no longer an elite Group of 5 team, after it finished 7-6 a year ago and lost most of the key pieces on defense that led the way. 

UCLA similarly lost a lot of key pieces, except on offense. Kelly reloaded that side of the ball in superb fashion — Moore looks like the truth at QB, Sturdivant will be known nationally as a star by the time the season is over, Steele is a bowling ball workhorse, and Harden might be the most electric player of them all. 

The total opened at 48.5 and has since moved up to 49.5 at most locations, although some have been slower to move than others. 

I’d be inclined to look at the Under if playing the total just considering how miserable SDSU’s offense has been through two games. The offensive line struggled last year, ranking 119th in line yards and 125th in stuff rate, and looks rough again this year with the top two options from a year ago no longer on the roster. 

Kelly hasn’t shown a penchant for caring too much about non-conference games, and while I expect his offense to be able to move the ball in this matchup, I’m hardly expecting a fireworks display against an Aztecs defense that ranked sixth in EPA per play a year ago and thus far has limited opponents to 4.5 yards per play. 

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UCLA vs San Diego State betting trend to know

The Aztecs are 1-5 ATS in their last six games played in September. Find more college football betting trends for UCLA vs San Diego State.

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UCLA vs San Diego State game info

Location: Snapdragon Stadium, San Diego, CA
Date: Saturday, September 9, 2023
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

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