BAYLOR BEARS (7-5)
vs. UCLA BRUINS (9-4)
Holiday Bowl - San Diego, CA
Kickoff: Thursday, 9:45 p.m. EDT
Line: UCLA -1, Total: 81.5
Two high-powered offenses showcase their stuff on Thursday night when pass-happy Baylor clashes with run-oriented UCLA in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
Baylor brings a five-game ATS win streak (4-1 SU) into this game, while UCLA has lost two straight, both to Stanford. The Bears lead the nation with 579 total YPG thanks to QB Nick Florence (FBS-best 388 total YPG) and WR Terrance Williams (FBS-leading 147 receiving YPG). The Bruins prefer to pound the football with RB Johnathan Franklin (131 rush YPG, 8th in FBS), who just rumbled for 194 yards and 2 TD versus Stanford’s top-ranked run defense. Baylor had 67 points in last year’s Alamo Bowl, marking its first bowl win since 1992. The Bruins have lost five of their past seven bowls, dropping a 20-14 decision to Illinois in last year's Fight Hunger Bowl.
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Florence has thrown for 4,121 yards, 31 TD and just 13 INT this season, as he has been able to throw at least 2 TD in 10 of 12 games, and play INT-free football in four of the past five contests. He has also rushed for a touchdown in eight of his past nine games, including five in a row. Despite Williams leading the nation with a school-record 1,764 receiving yards, his production has tailed off considerably late in the season. After five straight 135-yard performances, he has less than 100 yards in three of his past four contests, and of his dozen TD grabs on the season, only three have come in the past six games. But the Bears don't put up 44.1 PPG (5th in nation) solely because of their passing game. Lache Seastrunk has been outstanding in the past three games, rushing for 499 yards (166 YPG) on 54 carries (9.2 YPC). This includes a whopping 178 yards on 16 attempts in Baylor's regular season finale, a 41-34 win over Oklahoma State. The defensive problems abound for the Bears who allow the 2nd-most yards (514 YPG), 3rd-most passing yards (323 YPG), and 7th-most points (38.2 PPG) in the nation. Much of this stems from a non-existent pass rush with 1.1 sacks per game (T-8th fewest in FBS) and 3.8 Tackles For Loss per game (3rd-fewest in nation). The one positive for Baylor is that it creates turnovers, piling up 15 takeaways during a six-game, multi-turnover streak.
Before suffering back-to-back losses against Stanford's elite defense, UCLA had averaged 42.8 PPG over a five-game win streak. Franklin has rushed for more than 100 yards in nine of 13 games this year, surpassing 160 yards in four of his past six contests. This has put him atop the school's all-time rushing list with 4,369 career yards. The Bruins are not just a one-dimensional ground game though, as freshman QB Brett Hundley has thrown for 3,411 yards (262 YPG), 26 TD and 11 INT this season. The 26 TD were second most in the history of the school, and in the past seven games, he has thrown for 13 TD and just 4 INT, while rushing for five scores. Many of these touchdown passes have gone to TE Joseph Fauria, who has scored in nine different games this year, totaling 11 touchdowns on his 41 receptions (for 578 yards). Junior WR Shaquelle Evans leads the team with 53 catches and 795 receiving yards, but has gone six straight games without finding the end zone. The one problem offensively is that the Bruins have taken the third-most sacks in the nation, suffering 3.5 sacks per game. But the line is much more impressive on the defensive end, as the D-Line has been responsible for most of the team's 43 sacks this year (T-4th in FBS). Junior LB Anthony Barr leads the nation with 13.5 sacks to accompany his 74 tackles and 20.5 Tackles For Loss. Sophomore LB Eric Kendricks is a tackling machine with 137 stops (5th in FBS).