Kansas State Wildcats (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. UCLA Bruins (9-3 SU, 4-8 ATS)
Valero Alamo Bowl
Date and Time: Friday, January 2, 2015 at 6:45PM EST
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: KSU -1/UCLA +1
Over/Under Total: 59
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In what should be a very good game between two 9-win teams, the UCLA Bruins and Kansas State Wildcats meet in the Valero Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio on January 2. UCLA ended their season on a bad note on November 28, losing badly at home to Stanford, 31-10. Kansas State last played on December 6, losing in a Big 12 conference slugfest to Baylor, 38-27. Despite both teams ending the season on sour notes, both the Bruins and Wildcats had a lot of good things happen this season and with the extra time off, should be in peak form come January 2.
It was somewhat startling to see UCLA collapse at the finish line with the hammering at the hands of Stanford. But with that Stanford defense, its a somewhat forgivable loss and doesnt undo all the good work the Bruins put forth in 2014. UCLA opened the season with 4 straight wins, including a 62-27 road win at ranked Arizona State. They then dropped two straight to Utah and Oregon. They then embarked on a 5-game win streak, with wins over ranked Pac-12 stalwarts like Arizona and USC.
Kansas State lost 3 games this season, all to teams who were ranked no lower than 6th. In other words, only elite teams have been able to subdue the Wildcats this season. But they only beat one ranked team, the then 11th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. In their last game, they fell short to the Baylor Bears, 38-27, but have a chance to end their season strongly with a big win over a good Pac-12 team.
Kansas States offense doesnt have the same overall balance as UCLAs. The Wildcats rely heavily on the pass, with QB Jake Waters over 3000 yards on the season with an impressive 20/6 TD/INT ratio. Not that they cant run the ball, as Charles Jones and DeMarcus Robinson have been productive in spots. Jones has 13 TD runs on just 521 yards rushing. Waters himself has run it in 8 times. But at under 4 yards per run team-wide, their strength is the aerial attack, with dynamic Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. Lockett has 1351 yards on 91 catches, while Sexton has 955 yards receiving. Both players are top-notch and very dependable.
Defensively, Kansas State is pretty tough. They allowed only an average of 21.8 points per game, while being particularly stout against the run, allowing an average of 124 yards per game. When averaging 36 points per game offensively, its easy to see how thats a winning equation. They did give up 38 to Baylor, which isnt a lot considering how potent a home Baylor offense can be. And in another loss, they gave up 41 to TCU. Those are some pretty special offenses. Other than those two teams, its been an uphill battle against this KSU D.
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UCLA can run the ball and air it out with nearly equal aplomb. QB Brett Hundleys stats are eerily similar to those of opposing QB Jake Waters. He threw for a little over 3000 yards, with 21 TD throws and 5 picks. And he also ran the ball in 8 times. The bulk of the responsibility falls on RB Paul Perkins, who gained 1378 yards on 6 yards per carry. And Hundleys targets are a diversely-talented bunch that includes leading receiver Jordan Payton, Thomas Duarte, Devin Fuller, and Eldridge Massington.
UCLA not having quite the impressive defensive stats KSU has could be because theyre slightly less prodigious of a defense. It could also be a result of facing a more comprehensive schedule of offensive juggernauts within their conference. Not that Kansas State had it easy with Baylor and TCU, but other than that, they didnt play offenses that were all that dynamic. UCLA may have given up an average of nearly 6 more points per game, but their schedule was a little more difficult. And they have a game-changing linebacker in Butkus Award winner Eric Kendricks.
This is an interesting matchup of teams with quarterbacks who have a bit of a dual-threat feel to them. But UCLAs pass-defense, ranked 90th, will need to play better or the Waters-Lockett-Sexton combo will be hard to resist. Kansas State also barely turns over the ball, with just 11 turnovers–second in the country. But UCLA has a lot going for them too, like a red-zone offense that is pretty automatic. And offensively, they probably have more variety and therefore, more avenues to victory.
Outside of the major bowl games, this one carries the most appeal, featuring a well-matched game between a pair of 9-win teams who werent all that far from being elite teams this season. KSU fans will probably outnumber Bruins fans, with the game a little closer to the KSU campus. And Bill Snyder is certainly the more-decorated coach between him and Jim Mora. But I think Kansas States conservative play will match up well for the more free-swinging Bruins. Ill take UCLA.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the UCLA Bruins plus 1 point.