Thursday, December 27, 2012
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl keys
By David Ubben
Let's take a look at three keys for tonight's Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.
1. Win the ground battle. Johnathan Franklin is a more established force, but Lache Seastrunk proved he can be plenty productive on the ground late in the season. Simply put, the team that runs the ball more effectively in this game will win. Somebody's likely to break open a double-digit lead at some point, and if you can't run the ball consistently, that lead is going to disappear very quickly. Both of these offenses can hang points in a hurry, so you better be able to do so while also running the clock and minimizing risk.
2. Limit (or exploit) the big plays. Nobody in college football is more effective at throwing the ball downfield than Baylor. The Bears are at their best and very, very hard to beat when Nick Florence is hitting Biletnikoff Award finalist Terrance Williams downfield or finding Tevin Reese. Williams has 26 catches this season longer than 20 yards downfield and 14 grabs longer than 40 yards, both more than any other player in FBS. Florence's 19 touchdown passes longer than 20 yards lead the FBS (Robert Griffin III had 22 last season), and Baylor also had an FBS-best 19 touchdown drives of less than a minute this season. If Baylor can keep that pace, it's going to win. If UCLA slows down those quick strikes, Baylor's penchant for turnovers may surface on lengthy drives.
3. Battle of the UCLA backfield. Penetration and lots of bodies around the line of scrimmage is a good way to cover the zone read, and when Brett Hundley gets that going, the UCLA running game looks nearly impossible to stop. He rushed for a season-high 83 yards in a near upset of Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game. Ultimately, the zone read is all about the backside defensive end, but Baylor needs to slow that package down to keep UCLA's offense in check. Truthfully, I don't like Baylor's chances of slowing down Franklin much, but it's going to be a lot easier if the Bears get some help to that DE and keep UCLA running the ball in more traditional ways.