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If you like fun, exciting and unpredictable matchups (who doesn't?), this is your game. The Holiday Bowl pits the runner-up in the Pac 12 Championship game with a Big 12 team coming off three straight wins, one of them against the No. 1 team in the country.
Baylor's bowl chances were looking bleak at 4-5 with their last three games coming against ranked/previously ranked opponents. The only positive was that none of those games was a true road test. In the most important game of their season, they dominated No. 1 Kansas State in a 52-24 win. It was easily their best defensive performance of the year. For a team that allows 38 points per game on the season, to allow 24 points to a top offense is an impressive feat. They followed up that win with two more big games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. They would not be denied.
Expectations were a little different for UCLA after they started the season at 3-0 with a 36-30 win over Nebraska. They hit a couple bumps on their way to nine wins (26-point loss to a 3-9 California team), but had the big wins (Arizona and USC) needed to make it to the Pac 12 Championship game. Unfortunately, Stanford had their number in back-to-back games, letting a fourth quarter lead slip away in the Championship.
Baylor may have the better offense - only slightly though as the Big 12 is a defense-deficient conference - but UCLA's defense is also a little better. The Bruins are allowing 26 points per game, yet have had trouble away from home all year giving up 43, 43 and 36 points to California, Arizona State and Washington State respectively. Sure, the Sun Devils have a solid team, but those other schools both average less than 23 points per game.
There's no doubt the Bruins have enough firepower in this game. There haven't been many teams that could stop running back Johnathan Franklin this year and it's unlikely Baylor will be able to. Franklin is fourth in the nation with 1,700 rushing yards. In addition to that, he has 15 total TDs to go with 319 receiving yards on 32 receptions. He has hit 160 yards in four of his past six games, not to mention 194 yards and 10.2 yards per carry in his latest game against Stanford. Freshman quarterback Brett Hundley hasn't been a slouch either tossing for 3,411 yards with 26 TDs and 11 interceptions. Against the weaker defenses like Baylor's, he usually thrived. Besides Franklin in the passing game, the Bears will have to watch out for red zone threat tight end Joseph Fauria. Not many can cover the 6'7" beast as he has 11 touchdowns on the year.
Even though their defense has its problems (38 points allowed per game), one thing Baylor can do is score points no matter who they're playing. Despite the loss of Robert Griffin III, their offense is still one of the best in the nation scoring 44 points per game. At the head of that is their passing game between quarterback Nick Florence and wide receiver Terrance Williams. Florence is third in the country with 4,121 passing yards to go along with 31 TDs and 13 picks. Williams leads the nation with 1,764 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. The interesting part of this is that their passing game has actually slowed down in recent games even though they've won three straight. They found out they could run the ball and that kept their defense off the field more than usual. Lache Seastrunk has flown out of the gates in the past five games and is just running right through defenders. His most memorable run either being the 80-yarder against K State or his 76-yard burst that he finished on one leg due to cramps in their last game. Since given a larger role, Seastrunk is averaging close to 140 yards per game to go with five touchdowns. You can't forget about Glasco Martin in the backfield either who is averaging 88 yards per game over his last three along with six TDs.
This game is currently sitting at a pick 'em and an over/under of about 79.5 points. The over may seem too obvious, but may be the way to go in this one as the side looks to be as unpredictable as they come. Our model has Baylor winning a 46-45 shootout when using season to date data. Guess what happens when we use data from just the last 7 games? Sane score, different team on top, 46-45 UCLA. Lean towards Over 79
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