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Kicking the Tires: UCLA Bruins

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K-State closes the 2014-15 season with an Alamo Bowl appearance. The opponent is the UCLA Bruins, a talented but inconsistent Pac-12 outfit.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

K-State will participate in its fifth consecutive bowl game later this afternoon, taking on the Pac-12's UCLA Bruins in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. The Bruins enter this contest at 9-3, with losses to Utah, Oregon and Stanford.

The Wildcats and Bruins share one common opponent in the Texas Longhorns. UCLA beat Texas, 20-17, in a mid-September contest in Arlington when their starting quarterback was injured. K-State blanked UT in Manhattan, 23-0.

Across the board, this projects as one of the closest bowl matchups of the season. UCLA is ever-so-slightly favored by the oddsmakers and F/+, but most systems project this as a virtual coinflip. All except for Brian's probabilistic assessment, that is, which gives the Wildcats a 67 percent chance to win.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Jake Waters, 231-349-6, 66.2%, 3,163 yards, 9.0 yards/attempt, 20 TDs, 263.6 yards/game

Rushing: Charles Jones, 124 carries, 521 yards, 4.2 yards/carry, 13 TDs, 43.4 yards/game

Receiving: Tyler Lockett, 93 receptions, 1,351 yards, 14.5 yards/reception, 9 TDs, 112.6 yards/game

UCLA

Passing: Brett Hundley, 259-368-5, 70.4%, 3,019 yards, 8.2 yards/attempt, 21 TDs, 251.6 yards/game

Rushing: Paul Perkins, 231 carries, 1,381 yards, 6.0 yards/carry, 7 TDs, 115.1 yards/game

Receiving: Jordan Payton, 63 receptions, 896 yards, 14.2 yards/reception, 7 TDs, 74.7 yards/game

It's eerie how both of the quarterbacks K-State has faced to close the season have such similar passing numbers to Jake Waters. Hundley completes a slightly higher percentage for a slightly lower yards-per-attempt, but the raw totals are almost identical.

But oh, my kingdom for a rushing attack like UCLA's. Perkins leads the way for a team that averages 200 yards per game. And five UCLA players have caught passes for more than 50 yards this season, with another who has caught one for 49 yards. K-State's defensive strengths - stopping the run and preventing big plays - will be tested tonight.

Advanced Stats Preview

Overall Ratings

K-State

F/+: 21st

S&P+: 25th

UCLA

F/+: 19th

S&P+: 24th

K-State Offense

S&P: 27th

Success Rate: 47.1% (22nd)

IsoPPP: 61st

Rushing S&P: 45th

Passing S&P: 23rd

Standard Downs: 36th

Passing Downs: 20th

Drive Rating: 24th

UCLA Defense

S&P: 40th

Success Rate: 40.8% (62nd)

IsoPPP: 24th

Rushing S&P: 54th

Passing S&P: 23rd

Standard Downs: 37th

Passing Downs: 32nd

Drive Rating: 42nd

UCLA Offense

S&P: 20th

Success Rate: 46.5% (26th)

IsoPPP: 96th

Rushing S&P: 11th

Passing S&P: 18th

Standard Downs: 12th

Passing Downs: 34th

Drive Rating: 26th

K-State Defense

S&P: 38th

Success Rate: 45.0% (103rd)

IsoPPP: 8th

Rushing S&P: 27th

Passing S&P: 51st

Standard Downs: 43rd

Passing Downs: 37th

Drive Rating: 23rd

This matchup's evenness extends to the advanced-stats matchup. Look at K-State's offensive numbers compared to UCLA's. If you find any place where either side holds a clear advantage, let me know.

UCLA's offense looks pretty strong and will probably move the ball fairly well. The Bruins are a little weaker on Passing Downs, so on the occasions where K-State is able to get UCLA off schedule, it may be able to get them off the field. Watch to see if Tom Hayes dials up some blitzes on early downs to try and force unsuccessful plays early and get UCLA behind the chains.

Both teams are pretty good at preventing big plays, and UCLA in particular isn't very good at creating big plays, despite all those long pass plays mentioned earlier. A deep strike to Tyler Lockett could be the difference in this game.

Hundley protects the ball well with only five interceptions on the year. The Bruins have been somewhat fumble prone, turning it over nine times this year. The Bruins average more than a turnover per game. If K-State can force two in this game, I like the Wildcats' chances.

Prediction

K-State has a reputation for doing two things really well this year: stopping the run and preventing big plays on defense. If the Wildcats can do that tonight, they should be able to keep this UCLA offense mostly in check.

Sustained success for K-State's offense against UCLA's defense is unlikely. But in such an even matchup, K-State's discipline and consistent execution should ensure they win a few of those battles.

Bill's F/+ picks project a 41-39 win for UCLA here, which sounds awfully high-scoring. K-State plays the tortoise to UCLA's hare, but UCLA runs the ball enough that this should be a fairly low-opportunity game. Maybe a quasi-home crowd and better intangibles will carry K-State to a win.

Wildcats 33, Bruins 30