Thursday, December 19, 2013
Bowl primer: Hyundai Sun Bowl
By Kevin Gemmell
We continue our look at each of the Pac-12's opponents during the bowl season.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
El Paso, Texas, Dec. 31, 11 a.m. PT, CBS
UCLA (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4)
Virginia Tech Hokies
Coach: Frank Beamer (27th season)
Record: 8-4, 5-3 ACC
Combined opponent's record: 85-61 (.582)
Common opponents: None.
Leading passer: Logan Thomas, 224 of 391 (57.3 percent) for 2,861 yards, with 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Leading rusher: Trey Edmunds (injured), 166 carries, 675 yards, 10 touchdowns
Leading receiver: Willie Byrn, 49 catches, 635 yards with two touchdowns.
Leading tackler: Jack Tyler, 93 tackles.
What to know: The Hokies lost Edmunds to a broken leg in the season finale win over Virginia, so that stunts an already underwhelming rushing attack that averages only 117.8 yards on the ground per game.
They might also be without defensive back Kyle Fuller, who missed four games following groin surgery. His brother, Kendall, was the ACC defensive rookie of the year. So between him and UCLA's Myles Jack (Pac-12 defensive freshman of the year), we'll have two of the brightest young defensive players in the country squaring off on the same side of the field. (Or opposite sides, depending on how much Jack plays on offense).
The Hokies dropped three of their final five -- including a 27-24 overtime loss to Maryland. But one week earlier they beat No. 11 Miami 42-24, their second highest offensive output of the season. Of course, that was fueled by a four-touchdown effort from Edmunds, who won't be available.
Worth noting that Virginia Tech will have had almost a month to prepare for the Bruins. And that much time off usually favors the defense. Read on ...
Key matchup: Virginia Tech always poses a defensive threat. And with five players with double-digit tackles for a loss this year and six players with at least four sacks, the Hokies know how to generate havoc in the backfield. They rank eighth nationally in run defense (103.8 yards per game) and have allowed only 10 touchdowns on the ground. That will put pressure on a young UCLA offensive line -- which probably shouldn't be considered young anymore after having to grow up on the job. Keep an eye on the matchup in the trenches and how much VaTech spies Brett Hundley, one of the best quarterbacks in the country at extending plays.