Valero Alamo Bowl preview: UCLA vs. Kansas State
The 10-win mark still holds weight in the college football world. Just ask the No. 14 UCLA Bruins (9-3) or the No. 11 Kansas State Wildcats (9-3), who will meet in the Valero Alamo Bowl Friday, Jan. 2 (3:45 p.m. PT on ESPN) in San Antonio, Texas with a chance to reach the double-digit win plateau.
For both teams, a bowl-game victory would be a great way to erase the feeling of defeat to end the regular season. While the Bruins lost their grasp on the Pac-12 South crown with a 31-10 loss to Stanford on Nov. 28, KSU suffered a 38-27 defeat to Baylor on Dec. 6 with a chance to make a major shakeup in the Big 12 Conference.
Let's take a look at the key players and storylines to keep an eye on when these two teams clash in Texas.
Outlook: Brett Hundley suits up one last time for Bruins
A couple of weeks ago in a conference with reporters, UCLA coach Jim Mora confirmed the news that Bruins football fans have long dreaded.
"This will be his last game as a UCLA Bruin," Mora said, according to Ryan Katje of the Orange County Register. "I don't know that he's announced it yet, but we all know that's the case. I'd like him to go out with a successful game."
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Hundley's performance against Stanford was one to forget, as he completed a season-low 53.1 percent of his passes (17-of-32) for 146 yards and a touchdown while getting sacked four times. The talented signal-caller also had to exit the game with a bruised and swollen right index finger in the fourth quarter, but the injury isn't expected to be a problem against Kansas State.
There's no doubting Hundley's place among UCLA's all-time greats, though.
Hundley has racked up a school-record 11,425 total yards of offense during his three years under center and needs 165 more passing yards to join Cade McNown (10,708) as the only Bruins to eclipse the 10,000-yard passing mark. He accounted for 3,019 passing yards and 21 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions this year, completing a career-best 70.4 percent of his passes.
A win against a quality KSU team would be a nice exclamation mark to his career before he gets ready for the NFL Draft.
It will be paramount for the Bruins to keep Hundley upright. UCLA has given up 3.25 sacks per contest this year, which ranks 116 out of 125 FBS teams. The Wildcats haven't displayed an overwhelming pass rush this year, but do feature First Team All-Big 12 defensive end Ryan Mueller, who has a team-high 5.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles-for-loss.
UCLA PLAYERS TO WATCH
LB Eric Kendricks (139 tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss, three INTs, two sacks)
The man in the middle of UCLA's defense is also its motor. Eric Kendricks stepped his game up to another level in his senior year, as he ranked among the nation's best with 11.6 tackles per game. Kendricks was named the 2014 Butkus Award winner as the nation's top linebacker, and even received a surprise visit from Butkus himself during practice earlier this year in Westwood.
RB Paul Perkins (1,378 rushing yards, 6.0 yards per carry, 201 receiving yards, nine total TDs)
Hundley commands a lot of the attention in the Bruins' backfield, but don't forget about Paul Perkins. Quietly, the powerful running back amassed 1,381 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns in his junior year. As good as Hundley has been this year, Perkins has been the offense's most consistent performer on a weekly basis. KSU fared much better against the run (24th in FBS) as opposed to the pass (79th), so Perkins and UCLA 's offensive front will have their hands full on the ground.
LB/RB Myles Jack (80 tackles, six tackles-for-loss, 113 rushing yards, three TDs)
The Pac-12 is home to a few primetime players who play on both sides of the ball, including sophomore Myles Jack. Make no mistake, Jack is primarily a linebacker, who ranked second in the team in tackles. Jack still has the athleticism to pack a major punch on offense, especially near the goal line. He averaged 4.0 yards on his 28 carries this year and was able to convert three of them into touchdowns.
KANSAS STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
WR/KR Tyler Lockett (93 receptions, 1,351 yards, nine TDs)
Tyler Lockett takes the title as KSU's biggest playmaker on offense despite being listed at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds. Lockett has shown the ability to beat defenses deep throughout his career and UCLA will have to be on high alert whenever he tries to stretch out the secondary. The senior has notched four-consecutive 100-yard games and is also a dangerous return man who took back two punts for touchdowns this year.
QB Jake Waters (3,163 passing yards, 20 passing TDs, six INTs, 471 rushing yards, eight rushing TDs)
KSU coach Bill Snyder has a talented and versatile quarterback in senior Jake Waters. Not only did he engineer the nation's 19th-best passing offense (283.2 yards per game) during the regular season, but Waters was also the team's second-best rusher in terms of yards and scores. Waters is the best dual-threat quarterback the Bruins have faced since Heisman-winner Marcus Mariota burned them for four touchdowns in Oregon's 42-30 win on Oct. 11.
DB Randall Evans (61 tackles, four INTs, 4.5 tackles-for-loss)
With the way that college offenses are spreading things out these days, the demand for a nickelback in the FBS has become full-time. Randall Evans has thrived as KSU's fifth defensive back this year and has recorded an interception in three straight games entering the Alamo Bowl. Hundley has done a great job of protecting the ball and limiting interceptions, but Evans is playing at a high level right now.
STATS TO KNOW
- (9) -- Both UCLA and Kansas State enter the Alamo Bowl with nine victories, looking for win No. 10
- (70.4) -- UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's completion percentage, which ranks fourth among FBS signal-callers
- (11) -- The total number of turnovers lost by Kansas State this year, which is the second-lowest total in FBS this year
- (3.25) -- UCLA has given up 3.25 sacks per game, which ranks 116th out of 125 FBS teams
- (9.06) -- KSU quarterback Jake Waters ranks fifth in the FBS with 9.06 pass yards per attempt
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