Pac-12: Kyle Fuller

Hyundai Sun Bowl preview

December, 31, 2013
No. 17 UCLA (9-3) and Virginia Tech (8-4) meet on Tuesday in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Here are a few keys:

Who to watch: Start with UCLA’s dynamic duo at linebacker, senior Anthony Barr and freshman Myles Jack. Barr benefited from turning down a chance at the NFL a year ago, developing into one of the nation’s best at his position. Jack needed no such time. He also played running back for the final four games of the year, rushing for four touchdowns as he earned the Pac-12’s offensive and defensive rookie of the year honors. For Virginia Tech, the best chance to move the football comes through the air, but talented quarterback Logan Thomas must avoid interceptions. He threw 13 this season in 12 games.

What to watch: Virginia Tech is shorthanded without its leading rusher, Trey Edmunds, who suffered a broken leg in the season finale, a 16-6 win over Virginia. The Hokies struggled to run the ball with Edmunds, so what happens without him? On defense, top cornerback Kyle Fuller is likely out with a groin injury for Tech. Fellow corner Antone Exum will sit with an ankle injury. Against a pair of freshmen in coverage, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley could have a big day throwing to Shaquelle Evans and Devin Fuller.

Why to watch: It’s two name-brand programs in El Paso, but in what direction are these programs headed? The Bruins, under second-year coach Jim Mora, are trending up regardless of the outcome on Tuesday as they seek a 10-win season for the first time since 2005. The Hokies lost three of their final five games this season after struggling to a 7-6 finish a year ago under 27th-year coach Frank Beamer.

Prediction: UCLA 28, Virginia Tech 14. The Hokies don’t have enough firepower to get into a scoring duel with UCLA, so look for the bowl-savvy Beamer to search for a few nontraditional ways to even this matchup. But expect the Bruins and Hundley to shake free in the second half.

Bowl primer: Hyundai Sun Bowl

December, 19, 2013
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.



Thursday, 9/25
Saturday, 9/27