Match-Up: UCLA (Pac-12) Vs. Nebraska (Big Ten)
Spread: UCLA (-7.0)
Location: Levi’s Stadium, California
When: Saturday, December 26th, 9:15 PM
Where To Watch: ESPN
While an 8-4 record wasn’t exactly ideal for Jim Mora in his 3rd year, there is a lot to be excited about at UCLA. A star has been born in Josh Rosen, the freshman quarterback. He’s possibly the most exciting QB that UCLA has seen since some guy named Troy Aikman (he was ok, look him up). Rosen looked like a star from day 1; he went 28-35 for 351 yards and 3 TDs against Virginia in his debut… Keep in mind that he was in HIGH SCHOOL just a few months before that game… That’s insane. There were some struggles for the Bruins. They suffered brutal back to back losses to Arizona State and Stanford, and then lost a tough home game to Washington State late in the season, which basically ended their hopes of a Pac-12 title. Still, Rosen led the Bruins to being the 25th best passing attack in the nation, and the team has a lot to look forward to as they head into this game.
Players to Watch
Paul Perkins (RB) – I could talk about Rosen all day, but Paul Perkins played a vital role in this offense. The junior carried the ball 225 times for 1275 yards (5.7 YPC) and 13 TDs. He also caught 27 passes for 234 yards and a TD. Perkins is currently one of the top running back prospects in the nation, and will look to impress the NFL scouts that might be thinking of taking him with a 2nd or 3rd round pick this upcoming May (if he decides to declare).
Kenny Clark Jr. (DL) – Clark was awarded a spot on the Pac-12 1st team All Conference Team, and it was well deserved. The junior racked up 64 tackles, 9 for losses, and 5 sacks. He also managed to break up 5 passes. He’s currently the 18th ranked prospect on CBS Sports, and is a projected 1st rounded. Expect him to have a massive impact this game.
How UCLA Can Win
UCLA is the better team here… it’s fairly obvious. The real caption should be “How UCLA can lose.” As long as Rosen doesn’t unless “Freshman Rosen”, the Bruins should win this game comfortably. They are a top 50 offense and defense, and have played tough against many strong Pac-12 opponents.
Mike Riley had some big shoes to fill after taking over the head coaching position from Bo Pelini, who had never missed a bowl game in his 7 years at Nebraska. Unfortunately, the team became a punchline when it came to last second losses. Whether it was the Hail Mary loss to BYU or the insane 4th quarter comeback that fell short against Miami, this team just found new ways to lose games. This team could easily have won 10 or 11 games, but almost doesn’t count in the college football world. They even displayed their potential against Michigan State, a game in which they pulled a complete 180 and found an insane way to WIN the game. Still, it seems the committee felt some pity for Nebraska, and now they have one more chance to beat a marquee opponent before heading into next season.
Players to Watch
Tommy Armstrong Jr. (QB) – It’s been a wild season for the junior quarterback, who was supposed to really improve his game this year. He had some incredible performances, including his 4 touchdown game (2 rushing, 2 passing) against Michigan State, but also had some awful games, like his 0 touchdown, 4 interception game against Iowa, a game the Nebraska could have won if he hadn’t turned the ball over so many times. Still, if he can play at his best, he could pull off this upset.
Maliek Collins (DT) – The stats don’t really tell the story for the junior defensive tackle, who only had 2.5 sacks this season. What do tell the story is the accolades. Collins was voted to the 2nd All Big 10 team, and he is currently a projected 1st-2nd round pick according to most draft analysts. Look for him to impact OTHER plays around him, as he continuously commands double teams and forces ball carriers to the outside.
How Nebraska Can Win
Don’t turn the ball over. If Nebraska wants a chance to win, they’ll have to take advantage of every possession. They’re the 30th best passing attack in the nation and the 47th best scoring offense. But against an offense like UCLA, they’ll have to score on just about every possession, because Josh Rosen will likely feast on the 122nd ranked pass defense in the nation. Nebraska will likely have to win in a shootout here.
Final Score Prediction: UCLA Wins 55-34
Brian Sullivan: @TheMadManSports
Photo Credit: http://www.foxsports.com/college-football/story/ucla-bruins-josh-rosen-qb-touchdowns-virginia-cavaliers-first-game-090515