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Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl preview

Another game in the NCAA Bowl series previewed by James Jack, @materialista27. Read more of his work on his dedicated College Bowl site.

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Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

Thursday December 27th, 18:45 PT (02:45 GMT)

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California

(17)UCLA Bruins vs. Baylor Bears


The Holiday Bowl has been played annually at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, since 1978. Since 2010 the bowl has been known as the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl after Bridgepoint Education signed on to sponsor the game and put up the $2,000,000 payout made to each of the participants. Bridgepoint Education is a publicly held, for-profit education services holding company which owns online and land-based Ashford University and University of the Rockies. And they’ve been very naughty boys. Previous sponsors have included SeaWorld, Thrifty Car Rental, Plymouth, and Culligan.

The bowl pits a team from the Big-12 against a team from the PAC-12. Previously the WAC had a conference tie-in with the Bowl and for the first seven games; Brigham Young University represented the WAC as its champion. BYU has played in a total of 11 Holiday Bowls, more than any other team going 4-6-1 in those games. The 1980 game was known as "The Miracle Bowl" as BYU erased a 20 point SMU lead to win on the last play of the game. Bastards.

UCLA made strides in its first season under former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks coach Jim Mora Jr. but again faltered down the stretch, coming up short for the second straight year in their bid to reach the Rose Bowl, going down to the Stanford Cardinals in the PAC-12 championship game. The Bruins look to avoid their third season in a row where they’ve lost their last 3 games. Mora replaced Rick Neuheisel, who lost 49-31 to an impressive Oregon side in the inaugural PAC-12 title game last December. After a disappointing loss to Northern Illinois in Bowl season last year the Bruins turned to Mora to get the once prolific program back on track. Mora led UCLA through a fine campaign, including wins over ranked foes Nebraska, Arizona and USC, but the Bruins dropped their last two games, both to Stanford (not a big surprise given the Cardinals strength). UCLA lost the regular season game 35-17 on and the Cardinals came away with a 27-24 win the following week after Bruins freshman kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a 52-yard field-goal attempt in the closing minute. Still, a 9-4 season is a big improvement for UCLA, who will be trying to earn 10 wins for the first time since 2005. The Bruins are led by senior running back Johnathan Franklin, and redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley (he’s no Johnny Football though). Franklin, the school's all-time leading rusher with 4,369 yards, set career bests this season with 1,700 rushing yards, 13 rushing TDs, 319 receiving yards and a pair of TD catches. Hundley completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 3,411 yards, and his 26 touchdowns were second most in a season in school history. He also finished second on the team with 365 rushing yards and nine scores on the ground. Defensively, junior linebacker Anthony Barr led the nation with 13 1/2 sacks and sophomore linebacker Eric Kendricks was fifth in the country with 137 tackles.

Barr, Kendricks and the rest of UCLA's defense will certainly have their hands full with Baylor. After compiling a somewhat disappointing 7-5 record in the Big-12, the Bears' offense ranks first nationally with 578.8 yards per game and fifth with an average of 44.1 points. Senior quarterback Nick Florence is the national leader in total offense with 387.7 yards per game, and senior wide receiver Terrance Williams led the nation with 1,764 receiving yards. Those impressive numbers came only a season after the departure of Robert Griffin III. Florence has filled in nicely, but he threw seven of his 13 interceptions during a four-game losing streak Sept. 29-Oct. 27 that seemed like it would keep Baylor out of a bowl game. The Bears, though, finished on a three-game win streak which began with a 52-24 victory over Kansas State, then unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings. They then beat the Red Raiders of Texas Tech 52-48 after OT. Baylor concluded the season with a 41-34 win over Oklahoma State 1. Baylor has won at least seven games in three straight years for the first time in over 50 years, and the Bears are playing in a bowl game in three straight seasons for the first time. This looks like a program on the rise.

FOR UCLA TO WIN

Don't get put off when Baylor score, they will and they'll do it often. They need to have faith in their own attack. A good first drive will settle the nerves. This game will be won on defense, and UCLA have to step up in pass coverage, they can't allow Nick Florence to dictate this game, they will need to bring pressure and put him on his ass. Andrew Abbott has to have a strong game at safety, and Aaron Hester has to bring his A-game at cornerback. The Bruins have struggled in the secondary at times this season and with the best passing attack in the nation opposite them, it's gonna be tough.

FOR BAYLOR TO WIN

Throw it, throw it often and throw it as far as you can. There's a reason they've topped the FBS total offense rankings. I don't think the UCLA offense can keep pace with the Bears if they're operating at full throttle. They have a double-headed monster in the backfield that can be unleashed to put the game to bed.

VERDICT

Points, points, points. Don't be surprised if this game goes to overtime. Multiple overtimes. If both teams do to honourable thing and abandon defense, this could be the first triple figure points total of the postseason.

ADVICE

Baylor +3

Over 81.5 points

DRINKING GAME

1 drink: Any mention of Robert Griffin III

2 drinks: A defensive pass interference penalty is called.

Finish it: We see 100 points

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