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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On off-field incident late last week will cost FAU one of the top offensive linemen in Conference USA moving forward.
Over the weekend, FAU confirmed that Reggie Bain sustained injuries that were described as “not life threatening” in a car accident Friday. However, the non-specified injuries will likely sideline the true junior offensive tackle for the entire 2016 season.
“I have been in constant contact and have visited with both Reggie and his family,” a statement from head coach Charlie Partridge began. “His FAU football family has surrounded him with support and will continue to do so. Out of respect for Reggie, his family and our team, all questions should only be directed to me. I know that inquiries may be well-intentioned, under the HIPPA law, and per the request of Reggie and his family, there is very little I can disclose.”
No details surrounding the accident have been released.
Bain has started all 24 games in his two-year career with the Owls, earning second-team all-conference honors following the 2015 season. Coaches made Bain a preseason all-league selection last month.
It appears someone else will have to ease the load for a newly-minted starter under center and a Heisman Trophy contender, at least in the very early portion of the season.
According to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, Stanford head coach David Shaw has deemed it “unlikely” running back Bryce Love will play in the season opener Friday against Kansas State. Love sustained what was described as a lower-body injury at some point during summer camp.
The good news for the program and the player is, after the opener, the Cardinal goes on a bye before hosting 20th-ranked USC Sept. 17.
Wilner writes that “Love… is considered central to eighth-ranked Stanford’s efforts to take the pressure off new quarterback Ryan Burns and tailback Christian McCaffrey.” Burns has thrown one career pass and will be making his starting debut against K-State.
Last season, Love averaged 7.8 yards on his 29 carries. He added 15 receptions for 250 yards, and three total touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving).
South Carolina has seen one of the most experienced members of its secondary not only leave the program but the sport as well.
Rico McWilliams has decided to leave the Gamecocks and give up football, first-year USC head coach Will Muschamp announced Monday. No reason was given for the decision.
McWilliams had started 18 the past three seasons, but began to tumble down the depth chart in the spring and failed to gain much ground in summer camp. He had left camp early on for what were described as personal reasons, but eventually returned.
“I am back with the team and have to stay focused,” the cornerback said just three days ago.
As a redshirt junior last season, McWilliams started 10 of USC’s 12 games, the lone exceptions being the contests against Georgia and Texas A&M. He was credited with 32 tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
Additionally, Muschamp announced that redshirt freshman wide receiver Christian Owens had left his team as well. A three-star 2015 signee, Owens didn’t play as a true freshman.
Via social media, Jim Harbaugh has attempted to walk back some of his strong talk.
Monday, the Michigan head coach was asked to comment on one of his former San Francisco 49er players, Colin Kaepernick, who kicked up quite the controversy this past week by sitting down during the playing of the national anthem to protest what he believes to be the mistreatment of African-Americans in this country. Not surprisingly, the outspoken Harbaugh didn’t mince many words.
“I acknowledge his right to do that, but I don’t respect the motivation or the action,” the coach said.
A short time later, Harbaugh took to Twitter to offer a clarification that he had no issue with Kaepernick’s motivation, merely his methods.