When and Where:
December 27th, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California.
Baylor will meet UCLA in the 2012 Holiday Bowl in what could potentially be one of the more exciting games of the Bowl season. Both of these teams have shown an ability to put points on the board with Baylor coming in at #5 in the country at 44.1 points per game, despite losing last seasons leading passer, rusher, and receiver to the NFL. Baylor's offensive attack is spearheaded by Senior QB Nick Florence, a productive stable of RB's, and WR Terrance Williams. UCLA is no offensive slouch themselves notching 35.1 points per game and ranking #29 overall nationally.The UCLA offense is led by a talented trio featuring redshirt freshman QB Brett Hundley, along with seniors RB Jonathan Franklin and TE Joseph Fauria. The UCLA defense has seen a resurgence under Jim Mora Jr's attacking 3-4 defense, but it's almost a case of feast or famine for the Bruins as they tend to give up as many big plays as they make. Baylor's defense, on the other hand, is one of the more generous units in all of college football. Ranked #117 in points allowed, #123 in total defense, #90 in run defense, and #122 in passing defense. If the UCLA defense can not slow the Bears offensive attack, this game will be a shoot out.
1. Jim Mora Jr. vs. Art Briles
This is where the game will be won or lost for these two teams. Art Briles has transformed Baylor into an offensive Juggernaut and while their defense is the proverbial "butter" to the opposing offenses "hot knife", the offense is so explosively productive that it was still able to win 7 games. Briles runs a timing based, vertical spread offense primarily out of the shotgun formation. The bread and butter of this offense is its ability to make big plays through the air and work the running game off of those big plays. Jim Mora Jr. runs an aggressive 3-4 defense based on speed and physicality up front. Mora dials up a variety of blitz packages, stunts, and does a wonderful job of moving players around to create mismatches. Like every 3-4, you never know where that 4th, 5th, and sometimes 6th or 7th rusher is going to come from. If Baylor can keep Nick Florence upright and keep the UCLA pass rush off-balance with quick hitters, bubble screens, and the QB read option, this game will go down to the wire. If not, Baylor will have a hard time keeping pace with the Bruins, who are facing a much easier road to the end zone.
Top 5 draft eligible prospects:
1. Anthony Barr OLB UCLA
A junior playing his first year on the defensive side of the ball, Barr has exploded onto the scene with 20 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. Barr could fit in any defensive scheme at the next level and has a rare size/talent combo that could vault him into the top half of the first round should he choose to enter the draft.
Early Projection: 1st round.
2. Terrance Williams WR Baylor
Tremendous production to go along with an excellent size/speed combination. Williams hopes to follow in the footsteps of Kendall Wright and become the 5th Baylor Bear in the last 3 years to be drafted in the first round. A big game against UCLA followed by a strong All-Star game showing could put him on the radar for a late first round selection.
Early Projection: Last 1st-early 3rd round
3. Joseph Fauria TE UCLA
Listed at 6'7, Fauria is already an established red zone threat, having caught 11 TDs on the year. While he may need some time to develop at the next level, he has the talent and natural tools that GM's will drool over and opposing LBers and safeties will grow to fear.
Early Projection: 3rd-4th round
4. Datone Jones DE UCLA
Jones is not going to "wow" anybody at the combine and he'll never be a premier sack artist. But chances are that Datone Jones will make whoever drafts him a very happy man. A natural strongside end in the 4-3 at the next level, though he does offer some scheme diversity to play 5 tech in a one gap 3-4 defense like Houston. A workman who plays sound football and makes plays that are there to be made.
Early Projection: Late 3rd-4th round
5. Jonathan Franklin RB UCLA
A record breaking season from Franklin has put him on the NFL radar, but unless you're the Cleveland Browns, the NFL simply doesn't put a premium on Running backs anymore. I don't doubt that Franklin has NFL ability and it wouldn't surprise me to see him be successful if drafted to the right situation. While he's not exactly a "homerun hitter", he's the type of player who could carve out a niche as a utility or 3rd down back and have a long NFL career.
Early Projection: 4th-5th round
Names to remember in 2013:
1. Brett Hundley QB UCLA
This dual-threat redshirt freshman has UCLA faithful excited about the future. In his first year as starting QB for the Bruins he's thrown for over 3,400 and 26 TD's, while adding over 350 yards and another 9 scores on the ground. Standing 6'3 225 lbs to go along with an impressive physical skillset, Hundley is a name worth remembering.
2. Lache Seastrunk RB Baylor
Dynamic, explosive, arrogant? Already hyping himself as the 2013 Heisman front runner, this first year Baylor Bear averaged an impressive 7.6 yards per carry this season. 874 yards and 6 TD's on a mere 115 carries has brought him some national attention. It will be interesting to see if he can get himself out of the Baylor passing games shadow next season. Definitely a name worth remembering, not sure if he's worthy of Heisman hype though.
3. Eric Kendricks LB UCLA
A playmaker at ILB, Kendricks show a natural feel for the game and plays a nasty brand of ball. 137 tackles, 6 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 Int, 2 fumbles forced, and 2 fumbles recovered in his first season under Jim Mora Jr. Another year like this one and Kendricks will catch plenty of scouts attention.
I believe both teams will come out aggressive and putting up points in a hurry. The difference will be that as the game wears on, the UCLA defense will begin making life difficult for Nick Florence and Baylor's passing attack. The Baylor defense will simply be outmatched from the word go and UCLA will win this one 58-41.