UCLA hopes to send quarterback Brett Hundley off to the NFL with an Alamo Bowl win, but Kansas State stands in the Bruins' way.
• Reason to watch: This year’s Alamo Bowl features a pair of passing offenses that is tough to beat. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley may not have lived up to the preseason Heisman hype, but he still turned in a very solid year, passing for 3,019 yards with 21 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also rushed for 548 yards and eight touchdowns. Kansas State’s passing offense was unstoppable at times this season. Quarterback Jake Waters finished the year with 3,163 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Wildcats’ passing attack is ranked 19th nationally, while UCLA’s is 34th. The Alamo Bowl’s Hundley-Waters matchup is one of a few can’t-miss quarterback duels of the bowl season.
• Keep an eye on: Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett is one of the most explosive players in the country. He has tallied well over 1,000 receiving yards each of the last two seasons, including 1,351 yards and nine touchdowns this year. Lockett is currently seven catches shy of 100 receptions for the season.
The senior has had some of his best games against top competition this season. He caught 14 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown against Baylor and 11 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown against TCU. Expect Locket to have another big day against UCLA’s suspect pass defense (87th in the country in passing yards allowed per game).
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Lockett’s success against good teams doesn’t necessarily correlate to Kansas State victories: The Wildcats lost to both TCU and Baylor, and in both of those games no other K-State player caught more than four passes.
• Did you know: As impressive as Kansas State has looked this season, the Wildcats have not defeated a single team currently in the AP Top 25. Kansas State’s Oct. 18 win over then-No. 11 Oklahoma seemed notable at the time, but the Sooners’ subsequent struggles have diminished the significance of that victory. K-State had three chances to defeat then-top 10 teams this season and failed: The Wildcats lost to No. 5 Auburn 20-14, No. 6 TCU 41-20 and No. 6 Baylor 38-27. A bowl win against No. 14 UCLA would be the Wildcats’ best victory of the season.
• Final analysis: Although the impending departure of Hundley, a junior, to the NFL draft will hurt, UCLA is only graduating six scholarship seniors this season. A victory in the Alamo Bowl -- which would give the Bruins their second-straight 10-win season -- has the potential to vault them to even greater heights in 2015.
UCLA looked weak during Stanford’s 31-10 thumping of the Bruins in Pasadena in the regular season finale. But overall UCLA is much more balanced offensively than Kansas State. While K-State’s offense relies heavily on Lockett and Curry Sexton (69 catches, 955 receiving yards and five touchdowns), UCLA has a quality ground game to complement its passing offense. Sophomore running back Paul Perkins rushed for 1,378 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and Hundley relied increasingly on his legs as the season progressed. And the Bruins’ passing offense isn’t reliant on a single player as much as Kansas State’s depends on Lockett.
The Wildcats’ defense was statistically superior to UCLA’s this year (361.2 yards allowed per game vs. 401) -- an impressive feat considering the quality of Big 12 offenses -- but the Bruins’ offensive balance will carry Hundley to a fitting sendoff in his final college game.
• The pick: UCLA 37, Kansas State 29