UCLA still hoping for spot in College Football Playoff

Right before the college football season, UCLA looked like one of the better choices for the betting man.

Popularly thought of as a dark-horse national title contender, the Bruins drew 14-to-1 odds to win the championship — sixth-best in the country. Fast forward six weeks, and the team has fallen to 25-to-1 according to online sportsbook Bovada.lv, good for a 13th-place tie with TCU.

A 30-28 loss to a then-unranked Utah last week exposed a UCLA squad that had looked flawed for most of the season. Naturally, that isn’t deterring the now 18th-ranked Bruins’ own hopes about earning a spot in the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.

“Absolutely,” said UCLA defensive back Anthony Jefferson. “If we just do our job every week, and compete, play our butts off, I think we’ll have a great opportunity to make the playoffs.”

UCLA heads into Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. kickoff against No. 12 Oregon, another team whose title buzz has been quieted by its first loss. Only nine teams ranked in the Associated Press poll remain undefeated, and seven of them will play each other before the end of the season.

“There’s not many teams out there that haven’t got a wound,” said head coach Jim Mora. “It’s how you recover. It’s how you respond.”

Defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes called the loss to the Utes a “wake-up call.” And for the first time this season, the Bruins won’t enter a game as favorites. They are are currently 2.5-point underdogs.

“My whole life, I’ve always liked being an underdog in football,” Vanderdoes said. “I don’t know. It feels better being the underdog rather than the guy on top. When you hear, ‘Oh yeah, you’re supposed to blow them out,’ you don’t want to hear all that. You want to go in there with a chip on your shoulder.”

» Skill players seize headlines, but the matchup in the trenches may be more crucial in UCLA’s game against Oregon.
» The Ducks’ freshman running back Royce Freeman earned high praise from the Bruins this week.