UCLA Bruins vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Saturday – December 26 – 8:15 pm CT
Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, California
Records Before the Game
UCLA Bruins (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12)
Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-7, 3-5 Big 10)
How did Nebraska get here?
Nebraska opened the season with a thud in their a 33-28 loss to BYU, which was a harbinger of things to come. In Week 2, they crushed their FCS opponent, South Alabama, but in Week 3 they stumbled again in a 36-33 loss to the Miami Hurricanes. The Cornhuskers held off Southern Mississippi in Week 4 for a 36-28 victory, before losing two straight to Illinois, 14-13, and to Wisconsin 23-21. Nebraska finally put together a solid performance in their seventh game with a dominating 48-25 victory over Minnesota. They then lost two more games, falling to Northwestern by a score of 30-28 and to Purdue, 55-45. Just a week after losing to Purdue the Cornhuskers met, #7 ranked, Michigan State and in stunning fashion managed to knock off the Spartans 39-38 with a late touchdown. A solid victory over Rutgers the following week had Nebraska heading in the right direction, but the season ended much as it began, with a close loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes, who defeated the Cornhuskers, 28-10. Thus Nebraska ends the season 5-7 but ends up in a bowl game by virtue of their not being enough eligible teams and their high academic progress rate.
How did UCLA get here?
UCLA began the season by reeling off four straight victories which included a pair over teams ranked at the time. Then the Bruins stumbled into October with back to back losses to Arizona State and Stanford. Rebounding, UCLA dropped Cal, Colorado and Oregon State in the following weeks. At 7-2, the Bruins were in good position in the PAC-12 South, but a 31-27 loss at home to Washington State stung the Bruins. Turning it around just a week later, UCLA knocked off #13 Utah which was without their star running back, by a score of 17-9. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they concluded the season with a loss to USC to end up 8-4.
The Match Up|
Just based on records, one would believe that UCLA should win this game easily. However the line on this game is UCLA -6.5 points, which hints that the people that make money on these things think it going to be closer than you might expect at first glance. Partially it comes down to the fact that Nebraska has a win over a top 10 team which UCLA does not have. Also the way in which Nebraska lost, the Cornhuskers biggest loss of the season was by 10 points, and four of the seven losses were by 3 or less points. In three of UCLA’s four losses, they lost by at least two touchdowns.
The statistical breakdown of each team also shows they are fairly close when it comes to total offense, but that the Bruins have a clear edge in the running game with a ranking of 44 versus the Cornhuskers ranking of 71. However, defensively, it gets interesting as UCLA is ranked 88th in rushing defense, but Nebraska ranks 8th in stopping the run. This is good news for the Cornhuskers, because its means that UCLA will have to beat them through the air. The bad news is that Nebraska ranks 121st in passing yards allowed which should give the Bruins 25th ranked passing offense some room to work.
Leading the UCLA Bruins will be QB Josh Rosen who has completed 266-447 passes for 3351 yards, 20 TDs and just 7 interceptions. Rosen’s top two targets in the passing game, WRs Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte each average better than 14 yards per reception and combine for 14 touchdowns. 70% of Rosen’s touchdown passes go to these two receivers. Given Nebraska’s porous secondary, there will probably by a few more touchdowns thrown by Rosen to this pair in this game. On the ground, the Bruins have RB Paul Perkins, who has 13 TDs on the season including an 82-yard TD run.
Nebraska will be led by QB Tommy Armstrong, who has thrown 210 completions on 383 attempts, with 21 TDs and 16 INTs. Through the air, Armstrong will be looking for WRs Jordan Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly who combine for 11 touchdowns. RB Terrell Newby will by leading the ground assault for the Cornhuskers and has carried the ball 143 times for 743 yards and 5 TDs. However, leading Nebraska in rushing touchdowns is Armstrong. The dual threat QB has carried the ball 88 times for 324 yards and six touchdowns. So it will be interesting to see how well UCLA handles this additional run threat.
Ultimately, I look for UCLA to win this game for several reasons. All of those close ones Nebraska lost this season speak to the Cornhuskers not being able to finish out games. Nebraska also loses the important turnover statistic, and for Nebraska losing the turnover battle against the Bruins will probably spell defeat. For the Bruins, they appear generally well rounded on both sides of the ball, but do have flaws that Nebraska can exploit if given the chance. However, barring costly mistakes hurting the Bruins, I look for UCLA to take down Nebraska in this one.
Prediction: UCLA 42 – Nebraska 31