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Viewer's Guide: Valero Alamo Bowl

1/1/2015

Somewhat overshadowed by the New Year's Six, the Valero Alamo Bowl is a top-notch matchup of a pair of nine-win teams in No. 11 Kansas State and No. 14 UCLA. Here are three storylines to keep an eye on when the Wildcats and Bruins kick off at 6:45 p.m. ET Friday at the Alamodome in San Antonio:

1. NFL auditions and a final game for a pair of stars: UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett will leave lasting legacies in Westwood, California, and Manhattan, Kansas. Both superstars have been exceptional, consistent and among the nation's top players at their positions during their times at UCLA and Kansas State. Hundley passed for 3,019 yards and rushed for 548 while leading the Bruins to nine wins in 2014. Lockett had 93 receptions for 1,351 yards and nine touchdowns for the Wildcats as a senior. Yet questions about their NFL futures remain, and the Valero Alamo Bowl provides a great stage to impress NFL scouts against quality competition. Hundley is Scouts Inc.'s No. 81-ranked prospect and will be looking to head into his pre-draft preparation with a bang. Meanwhile, Lockett, the No. 83-ranked prospect by Scouts Inc., is the type of receiver prospect who could get overlooked due to his lack of size and perceived lack of speed, then get into an NFL camp and start terrorizing NFL defensive backs.

2. Motivation matters: We've seen time and time again that motivation matters in bowl games. Both teams are coming off a loss; Kansas State will be looking to win at least 10 games for the third time in five seasons, along with a second straight bowl game, while UCLA is eyeing its second straight 10-win season. And don't forget conference bragging rights. The Big 12 took a major hit Monday with Oklahoma and Texas laying down in their bowl games while the Pac-12 has made its argument as the best conference in the nation with four wins before New Year's Eve. K-State can make a statement for the Big 12 while UCLA can reaffirm the Pac-12's rise.

3. Snyder vs. Mora: Two different approaches. Similar results. Bill Snyder's K-State program is run behind closed doors with the veteran coach as the main voice and CEO. Jim Mora Jr.'s UCLA program opened its doors to the Pac 12 network show "The Drive," giving unique insight into the Bruins and their energetic head coach. Both teams won nine games. Hard work, key playmaking, solid offenses and good defenses carried both into the Valero Alamo Bowl in an interesting matchup that will send one team into the offseason with plenty of momentum while the other will head home with plenty of "what ifs" in the back of its mind after seeing a season that could have featured a conference championship end with back-to-back losses.