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Hawai’i vs. UCLA best bets

The Bruins and Rainbow Warriors open up the 2021 FBS football season. We take a look at both teams, and find a pick to be made.

NCAA Football: Stanford at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Ahh yes, Week 0 of college football has finally arrived and that can only mean one thing .. Hawai’i football on your television screens!

Week 0 effectively exists because of the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors, as the NCAA grants an exemption for them and their opponents to schedule an extra regular season game to offset travel costs to and from the island. So where is second-year head coach Todd Graham’s group heading on Saturday?

Pasadena, CA, where the UCLA Bruins are heading into year four of the Chip Kelly era. The program started to show signs of proof concept last year under the former Oregon/NFL head coach are hoping to take a major step forward in 2021, starting with a win over Hawaii.

Here’s all the data you’ll want, and a pick for the game!

SP+ Rankings

Hawai’i: 97 overall, 80 offense, 108 defense
UCLA: 29 overall, 10 offense, 68 defense

Injury update

Hawai’i

LB Jeremiah Pritchard - Out (injuries sustained in offseason car accident)

UCLA

OL Sam Marrazzo - Out (leg)
QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson - Probable (undisclosed)
WR Delon Hurt - Out for season (suspension)

ATS/Total

Against The Spread

Hawai’i: 4-5 ATS (2020)
UCLA: 4-3 ATS (2020)

Total

Hawaii’: Over 2-7 (2020)
UCLA: Over 4-3 (2020)

Returning/Overall Talent from 247Sports

Hawai’i: 125 overall, 127 offense, 119 defense
UCLA: 21 overall, 21 offense, 27 defense

Current lines at DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: UCLA -18
Total: 68
Moneyline: Hawai’i +600, UCLA -900

Opening line: UCLA -16.5
Opening total: 70

Weather

97 degrees, 5 MPH wind, 1% chance of rain

The Pick

Hawai’i +18

The Bruins come into Saturday’s season opener as heavy favorites but several factors point towards Hawai’i making this closer than the experts think.

  1. The first game is generally sloppy as teams aren’t as crisp in live game action and are still ironing out personnel.
  2. UCLA has a huge home showdown with LSU next week, so Kelly’s staff may not be inclined to put everything on tape.
  3. UCLA is 2-5 against the spread as a home favorite under Chip Kelly and 0-4 overall against Group of Five teams during his tenure.
  4. Starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson missed a significant stretch of practices with an undisclosed injury and while he’s expected to play, he may not be as crisp as we’ve seen him before.
  5. While their opponents rank near the bottom of the FBS in returning offensive production, they return two of the most dynamic players in the Mountain West in senior quarterback Chevan Cordeiro and all-purpose back Calvin Turner Jr.

The safe play is leaning into the Warriors keeping pace in the Rose Bowl even after traveling to the mainland.

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