Foster Farms Bowl - Santa Clara, CA
Nebraska vs. UCLA
Saturday, December 26, 6:15 pm PT - ESPN
CRIS Opener: UCLA -6 O/U 60
CRIS Current: UCLA -6.5 O/U 61
Nebraska was extremely fortunate to end up in the postseason with a 5-7 record. Detractors may be up in arms but if anything, it could motivation for Mike Riley’s squad to prove folks wrong. UCLA limped to an 8-4 finish including a sloppy (-3 turnover margin) 40-21 loss to USC in the regular season finale.
Offensively, Nebraska was sneaky good as it finished second in the Big Ten at 442 ypg at over 6 yards per play. When not turning the ball over (16 INTs) Tommy Armstrong Jr. was a capable passer who spread the ball around to a number of solid receivers including Jordan Westerkamp who hauled in 63 catches. They match up well against a UCLA defense that was a mess most of the season thanks to cluster injuries. It all started when LB Myles Jack was lost for the season with a knee injury back in late September while DT Eddie Vanderdoes and CB Fabian Moreau were also lost to injury. The Bruins' stop unit never truly got back on track and surrendered 24+ points in seven of their last nine games. The overall season numbers look fine but games against offensively anemic Oregon State and Utah need to be accounted for.
On the flip side, UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen should be eagerly anticipating throwing the football against a horrific Nebraska secondary which was torched by passing attacks all season long. The Cornhuskers had the second-worst pass defense in the Big Ten and are tied for fewest interceptions forced. Rosen should be able to find his deep threats Jordan Payton (the school’s all-time receptions leader) and Thomas Duarte against this very suspect Nebraska secondary.
As mentioned, the Bruins should have no trouble in the “big play” department against a Nebraska defense that allowed 24 passing plays of 30+ yards. And the Cornhuskers, who are fairly balanced, should have their pick of how to move the football against a UCLA defense that late season showed weakness both against the pass (388 yards allowed vs. Washington State) and run (235 yards allowed vs. USC). Add in the likelihood of a few boneheaded plays (26 turnovers lost) by Nebraska and this has the makings of a high scoring affair.