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For the first time since Chip Kelly came to town, the Bruins are bowl eligible and spent their Sunday morning awaiting the call on where their postseason contest will be.

Well the news is in, and it turns out they'll be making a post-Christmas trip south.

UCLA football (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12) was selected to face off against No. 18 North Carolina State (9-3, 6-2 ACC) in the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28. The Bruins have played in the Holiday Bowl once before, back at the end of the 2012 season when they lost 49-26.

But whereas that contest took place in the now-demolished Qualcomm Stadium, the Holiday Bowl is now set to kick off in Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. It will be one of four bowls played in an MLB stadium this year, joining the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, the Fenway Bowl at Fenway Park and the Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field.

UCLA played in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in 2017, when it was still called the Cactus Bowl, and since they have yet to qualify for the postseason since, this will be the second-straight bowl they play in a professional ballpark.

This officially marks the end of the Bruins' three-year bowl drought since the early 1970s when there were only 11 bowl games compared to 42 in the modern era. Kelly boasted a 10-21 record through those three seasons, his first three in Westwood, so UCLA's leap to 8-4 this fall stood out as a major step forward from a team that averaged 3.3 wins per year under his watch prior to 2021.

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While this is the first bowl game for key upperclassmen such as quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, receiver Kyle Philips, tight end Greg Dulcich and defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia, it could also be their last should they choose to leave for the NFL this offseason.

Standing in the Bruins path are the Wolfpack, who finished in second in the ACC Atlantic Division. They boast the No. 32 scoring offense and No. 18 scoring defense in the country, led by quarterback Devin Leary's 35 touchdowns and 157.0 passer rating as well as linebacker Drake Thomas' 99 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions.

UCLA has played NC State twice, winning both of the head-to-head matchups in 1959 and 1960.

Around the rest of the Pac-12, Utah will play Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, Oregon will face Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl and Arizona State will face Wisconsin in the Las Vegas Bowl. Below UCLA on the ladder are Washington State and Oregon State, who will play Miami (FL) and Utah State in the Sun Bowl and LA Bowl, respectively.

The Pac-12 only sent two teams to bowls after the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, and both of them came home with losses. Over the past four seasons, Pac-12 teams were a combined 8-17 in bowl games, and the conference's fate has been similarly poor in the Holiday Bowl, having lost five in a row and eight of the last nine.

The 2021 Holiday Bowl will kick off on Tuesday, Dec. 28 at 5 p.m.

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