Bowl Breakdown: Las Vegas

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t1_hall.jpg's Gennaro Filice analyzes the matchup.

After a second consecutive undefeated season in Mountain West play, the Cougars felt they deserved a BCS bid. Although BYU didn't get one, the Cougars did earn a chance at redemption against UCLA. (The Bruins beat BYU 27-17 on Sept. 8.)

In his third year, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall may have his most complete team yet. For the Cougars, it always starts with offense, and this year is no different. After the graduation of prolific passer John Beck, BYU's high-flying offense was supposed to take a step back, but sophomore QB Max Hall made sure that didn't happen. The first-team All-Mountain West performer enjoyed a fine season, throwing for 3,617 yards and 24 touchdowns. But this BYU offense doesn't rely solely on the pass -- MWC Freshman of the Year Harvey Unga is one of the most underrated running backs in the nation. The versatile power back rushed for 1,211 yards and 13 touchdowns and also caught 41 passes for 629 yards and four scores.

BYU boasts a top-tier defense for the second consecutive season. The Cougars rank 10th in total defense and 13th in scoring defense, yielding just 18.75 points per game. BYU's 3-4 scheme relies heavily on zone coverage and showcases the talents of linebackers Bryan Kehl and Kelly Poppinga. Sophomore DE Jan Jorgensen is in the midst of a breakout season, leading the Mountain West in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (18).

The Karl Dorrell era has come to an end, as UCLA fired its head man after five years. With 20 returning starters, the Bruins entered this year with high hopes, but they lost four of their final five games. Dorrell chose not to coach the Bruins in the Vegas Bowl, so defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker takes the reigns.

It's been a nightmare season for the UCLA offense, thanks to a slew of injuries. The Bruins averaged just under 23 points per game, worse than 89 teams. UCLA should be relatively healthy for the bowl game; QBs Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson are both available. Slowed by foot and ankle injuries, senior running back Chris Markey hasn't eclipsed 100 yards in a game since September.

Returner Matt Slater is extremely dangerous, having returned three kicks for touchdowns in '07.

UCLA's defense has been solid at times, but consistency is a big issue. Speedy defensive end Bruce Davis is a terror off the edge. As one of the nation's premier pass rushers, Davis has 22 sacks over the past two seasons. Strong safety Chris Horton is a complete player. The first-team All-Pac-10 performer is outstanding in run support and can hold his own in coverage.

BYU dominated the first meeting -- outgaining UCLA 435-236 -- but three turnovers doomed the Cougars. This time, BYU will be out to make a statement against a depleted Bruins squad.

The pick: BYU 34, UCLA 17