Free College Football Picks and Pointspreads: The Cactus Bowl

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen will play Sundays sometime soon, but it doesn’t look like he’ll play when his Bruins battle Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl Tuesday night in Phoenix (9 pm ET, ESPN). How does Rosen’s status affect our free college football pick on this contest?

The Line

Most of the college football bowl betting market opened K-State at -2.5 for this bowl, with a total of right around 63. But as of about 24 hours before kickoff the Wildcats had been bet up to -6.5, while the total dipped to 62.

Sagarin’s PREDICTOR ratings at indicate Kansas State should be favored by three points, although that doesn’t take into account the Rosen situation.

The Lowdown

Kansas State (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) started 3-1 this season, then lost three games in a row, although two of those came against the teams that made the Big 12 championship game, Oklahoma and TCU. The Wildcats then won two straight, lost to West Virginia, but finished with back-to-back victories over two pretty good outfits in Oklahoma State and Iowa State.

So K-State is playing in a bowl for the eighth straight season.

The Wildcats got a touchdown on the last play of the game to beat the Cyclones 20-19. However, K-State got outgained that day by over 100 yards. In fact, the Wildcats have been outgained in each of their last nine games.

The Wildcats lost two quarterbacks this season, but are 2-1, averaging 29 points per game, since freshman Skylar Thompson stepped in.

UCLA (6-6 SU, 4-8 ATS) started 2-0 this year, then lost six of its next nine games. Along the way the Bruins beat Oregon and Arizona State, while its losses included decisions against Memphis, Stanford, Washington and USC. Needing a victory in the finale to become bowl-eligible UCLA then beat Cal 30-27 on a field goal in the final seconds.

So the Bruins are back in a bowl after missing out last year.

UCLA outgained the Bears by four yards that day, but it’s been outgained four of its last seven times out.

As recently as a few days ago it appeared Rosen, who suffered a concussion against Cal, might play in this bowl. But recent reports indicate he won’t.

Also, the Bruins canned coach Jim Mora just after the loss to Southern Cal, so they’re being led by an interim coach in this bowl, with new coach Chip Kelly watching from afar.

By the Numbers

UCLA ranks 19th in the nation this season in total offense at 466 yards per game, but a dismal 123rd in total defense, giving up 489 YPG, while playing what Sagarin rates as the 10th-toughest schedule.

K-State ranks 96th in total offense at 368 YPG and 97th in total defense at 432 YPG, while playing the 54th-ranked schedule.

Free College Football Pick

Kansas State will run the ball on UCLA’s terrible run defense, and that’s good enough for us. We’re giving the points here with Coach Snyder.


Kansas State -6.5

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