The No. 22 UCLA Bruins will visit the No. 11 Utah Utes on Saturday, and one question is on everyone’s minds: is Cam Rising playing? I don’t have a definitive answer, but I’m here to break this game down regardless. Every week, I’ll post my top college football picks by Monday and provide an update before each game — you can check out all of my college football Week 4 picks here. Let’s dig into today’s UCLA-Utah odds as we make our predictions and pick the best college football Week 4 bet!
UPDATE (9/23/2023 at 10:30 a.m. ET): Cam Rising will not start Saturday’s UCLA-Utah game, per ESPN.
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UCLA-Utah Pick & Betting Prediction | College Football Week 4
UCLA-Utah Betting Odds
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UCLA-Utah Pick & Prediction: Is Cam Rising Playing?
The Week 4 slate is loaded with six games between ranked opponents, and that doesn’t count Florida State-Clemson because the Tigers were the first team out. Three of them will kick off right at 3:30 p.m. ET, and UCLA-Utah might be the most exciting of the bunch. The No. 11 Utah Utes may or may not have star quarterback Cameron Rising available, but even without him, head coach Kyle Whittingham’s Utes have defended their home turf with aggression. The Utes took down the Gators at home in Week 1 before beating FCS Weber State here last weekend. Still, if Rising sits, I’m just not convinced this Utah team has a prayer against the No. 22 UCLA Bruins this year.
Although the Utes enter the weekend 3-0, there are some significant asterisks, to their performance — asterisks that UCLA doesn’t have. The Utes are a dreadful 80th in yards per play (5), far behind seventh-ranked UCLA (7.5). They also have some serious question marks at quarterback, with initial backup Bryson Barnes, a traditional pocket passer, getting usurped by track star Nate Johnson. Neither signal-caller is all that effective. Barnes owns a 104.4 passing efficiency grade while Johnson owns a 152.8, but more than half of his passing production came against FCS Weber State. Utah’s defense also ranks an unimpressive 69th in yards allowed per play (5.4), also below seventh-ranked UCLA (3.9).
Fading Kyle Whittingham at home is usually an unprofitable endeavor, but the cracks have started to show over the last few weeks. Utah’s win over Florida required multiple scores from turnovers or penalties, and the Utes beat FCS Weber State by just 24 points, bringing Utah to 1-1-1 ATS this year. Whittingham may be an impressive 60-45-4 ATS at home since his arrival in Salt Lake City, but he is just 21-19-1 ATS against ranked opponents and 6-5 against them since 2020. The Utes are on an impressive 9-5 ATS run as home favorites since last year, but the Bruins are on a 7-3 ATS tear as road dogs through that span.
This brings us to the elephant in the room: Is Cam Rising playing on Saturday? The UCLA-Utah odds opened with the Utes as a full touchdown favorite before their advantage cratered to only 4.5 points. Their advantage was steamed up to 6 on Thursday afternoon but is now back to 5.5 in most spots. Pregame reports that 69% of the cash has come in on Utah on only 58% of the tickets, which suggests the Utes are the sharper side of the matchup. But with no confirmation of Rising’s status — and the news that Rising’s status is up to neither Whittingham nor Rising but Rising’s doctor, I’m skeptical of anyone who says definitively that Rising will or will not play on Saturday.
So is Cam Rising playing on Saturday? We probably won’t know until a little bit before kickoff, and even then, we won’t know if he’ll be on a pitch count or even if he’ll be at full strength. Mobility is a massive part of Rising’s game — he has gone for 400-plus yards on the ground with six scores in each of his seasons as the starter, racking up 63 against UCLA in 2021 and 59 in 2022. Despite Utah’s home-field advantage, I suspect the Bruins will keep any game against Nate Johnson or a limited Cam Rising within a field goal. Whittingham may preserve his unblemished record for another week, but this Bruins team is too good, and bettors appear far too confident that Rising will return to his elite form instantaneously.
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UCLA-Utah Week 4 Pick: UCLA +5.5 -108 at DraftKings