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Predictions 101 — Holiday Bowl

Jim Mora AP

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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1 Response to “Predictions 101 — Holiday Bowl”
  1. artisan3m says: Dec 20, 2012 1:20 AM

    Marc, you must be hitting the cheap wine to think that UCLA will hold Baylor to a mere 38 points. I’d be surprised if they didn’t score close to that number in the first half. They averaged 48 in their last three games against tougher teams. UCLA is a very good team but no team has improved more defensively toward season’s end than Baylor. Besides, Baylor is not one dimensional ~ Seastrunk is the equal of any Bruin RB and Florence leads one of the game’s most prolific passing attacks. UCLA will be a challenge, but at days end Baylor wins it by two, maybe three, TDs

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