No. 17 UCLA vs. Baylor
Thurs., Dec. 27 – 9:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
San Diego – Qualcomm Stadium
The Bruins went toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best teams in five of their last eight quarters. The heart-breaking loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game gave added credence to P101’s belief that first-year head coach Jim Mora packed it in for the final three quarters of the regular-season finale versus the Cardinal to avoid a trip to Eugene, in favor of a replay up on The Farm.
With those two opportunities to post a 10-win season gone, UCLA (9-4) needs a win to avoid losing three consecutive games to close its “turn-around” campaign.
Through the first three decades of this bowl, we came to expect shootouts with an average of 59 points scored, but over the last three years the total has been nearly cut in half. That means we’re due for a heaping helping of offense and these are the perfect teams to oblige.
After losing five of six in the middle of its schedule, Baylor (7-5) turned things around by crushing the hopes of then-No. 1 Kansas State on Nov. 17, sparking a three-game win streak.
Despite losing last year’s Heisman Trophy recipient to the NFL, quarterback Nick Florence kept the Bear offense rolling right along, racking up a national-best 578 yards per game. He’ll do plenty of damage against UCLA’s 88th ranked pass defense, but it won’t be enough to keep up with the generosity of a Baylor defense that ranks next-to-last, allowing 514 yards per game.
Those numbers have Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin licking their chops after churning out 461 yards in the Pac-12 title game against one of the nation’s best stop units.
UCLA needs to avoid souring the accomplishment of ending USC’s monopoly and produce its first meaningful bowl win since defeating Texas A&M in the 1998 Cotton Bowl.
Opening point spread: Baylor by 1
The pick: UCLA 47-38
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In the midst of a four-game losing streak, it appears Duke will have its starting quarterback at its disposable in the final regular season attempt to end the skein –if that’s the direction the coaching staff wants to go, of course.
On Duke’s official injury report, Thomas Sirk is listed as probable for the Wake Forest game with an unspecified upper-body injury. Sirk sustained the injury in the Week 10 loss to North Carolina and didn’t play in the loss to Pitt the following weekend.
He returned last Saturday for the loss to Virginia.
Not only is Sirk the Blue Devils’ leading passer, but he also leads the team in rushing with 593 yards on the ground. Sirk is one of four Power Five quarterbacks who leads their team in rushing and passing, joining Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Oregon State’s Seth Collins.
Even as it has looked like Sirk will be healthy enough to go this weekend, head coach David Cutcliffe has declined to name a starter. Parker Boehme is Sirk’s backup and started the Week 11 loss to Pitt. In his first collegiate start, the sophomore completed 23-of-42 passes for 248 yards and an interception.
One of the most important games on the holiday docket this weekend is Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, with the Sooners looking to maintain their No. 3 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings and the Cowboys looking to get back into the playoff mix following their first loss of the season.
As it’s late November, though, Mother Nature may be looking to have a say in the outcome.
With Bedlam scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. ET in Stillwater on Saturday, the weather forecast bears watching. “There is 40-percent chance for precipitation Saturday night and a low temperature around 30 degrees with the potential for rain or freezing rain,” the Oklahoman‘s Kyle Fredrickson wrote, citing National Weather Service data.
In the old days when playing surfaces were mainly grass, wet weather wreaked havoc on field. With the advent of advanced fake turf, that concern has been somewhat mitigated. At least, that’s what OSU’s offensive boss is telling himself.
“I think you have to have contingency plans based on the weather,” coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “But nowadays, you’re playing on the turf so it can’t be that bad. Back in the day when we were playing on grass, it would affect you because there would be mud on the ball and you would only use two balls in the game.”
OU, OSU and Baylor all currently have one Big 12 loss, with the latter having two regular season games remaining while Bedlam is the last for the in-state rivals. The Sooners would be declared the conference champion with a win this weekend — they would’ve beaten both the Bears and Cowboys — while the Bears stake their claim as the league champ with wins in the last two games (TCU, Texas) combined with a Sooners loss. Because of its loss to the Bears last weekend, the Cowboys can be Big 12 champs only if they beat the Sooners and the Bears lose at least one of their last two.
If OU can win Bedlam and hold the crown of Big 12 champ, they’ll have to wait another week to see if the playoff committee will keep them in the top four or, as was the case with TCU last year, they get bumped out in favor of teams that played in and won conference championship games while they sat at home.
Looking to put an embarrassing overtime win over two-win FAU in the rearview mirror, Florida is look at some significant defensive line issues heading into its annual in-state showdown with Florida State.
First and foremost on the injury report is Jon Bullard, who is listed as doubtful for Saturday night’s game against the Seminoles. Bullard, who has been dealing with an arm issue the past couple of weeks, suffered a knee injury on the first possession of the FAU game. While the defensive tackle returned to that game, he’s been limited in practice this week leading to his doubtful designation.
Bullard’s 13.5 tackles for loss are tops on the team and fourth in the SEC. He has started 33 games during his Gator career, including a streak of 23 straight.
In addition to Bullard’s injury issue, defensive ends Alex McCalister (foot) and defensive tackle Taven Bryan (ankle) are also listed as doubtful as well. McCalister currently leads the Gators in sacks with 6.5, one more than Bullard’s 5.5.
But wait, there’s more: three other defensive linemen are listed as questionable — Joey Ivie (knee), Jordan Sherit (hamstring) and Thomas Holley (hip).
Still needing another win to secure bowl eligibility, Chris Petersen has been rewarded by his Washington bosses for the work he’s done with the Huskies thus far.
First reported by SI.com‘s Pete Thamel and subsequently confirmed by ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad, Petersen has signed a two-year contract extension with UW. The new deal would keep Petersen with the Huskies through the 2020 season.
Thamel adds that Petersen will earn $4 million in the extension years of 2019 and 2020; in 2015, Petersen earned $3.4 million. Petersen had already been scheduled to earn $4 million in 2018 under the terms of his original five-year deal.
Following an eight-year tenure at Boise State in which the Broncos won 88 percent of their games, Petersen left to take over the Huskies for the 2014 season after Steve Sarkisian exited for the USC job. In his first season, Petersen went 8-5 and ended the year with a Cactus Bowl loss. This season, the Huskies are 5-6 and need a win over No. 20 Washington State this weekend to extend their bowl streak to six straight seasons.
In Petersen’s first seven seasons as a head coach, he went 84-8; in his last three seasons, he’s gone a combined 21-16 — 8-4 in his last season in Boise, 13-12 in his first two years at UW.
UPDATED 12:04 p.m. ET: Within a minute of this being posted, UW sent out a press release confirming that Petersen has indeed agreed to a contract extension.
“Coach Petersen has demonstrated tremendous integrity and is building a program that Husky fans can be proud of, both on and off the field,” athletic director Scott Woodward said in a statement. “This extension is well-deserved and we hope Coach Petersen is a Husky for a long time to come.”