Nebraska vs. UCLA Prediction, Foster Farms Bowl Game Preview

    For the third time in the last four years, the UCLA Bruins (8-4) and the Nebraska Huskers (5-7) are squaring off. Check out the Nebraska vs. UCLA prediction and game preview.

    December 18, 2015


    For the third time in the last four years, the UCLA Bruins (8-4) and the Nebraska Huskers (5-7) are squaring off. Check out the Nebraska vs. UCLA prediction and game preview.


    Nebraska vs. UCLA Game Preview

    Broadcast

    Date: Saturday, December 26
    Game Time: 9:15 ET
    Network: ESPN

    Follow and/or Contact @Rich Cirminiello

    Why You Need To Care

    Entering the Foster Farms Bowl two games below .500, Nebraska has become one of the poster children for those who feel the postseason has become too bloated and inclusive. Hearing their detractors, the Huskers will no doubt play with a chip on their shoulder Saturday night.

    Becoming bowl eligible didn’t exactly go as planned for Nebraska in Mike Riley’s first season in Lincoln. The Huskers failed to win the requisite six games, but a strong academic record qualified the program when not enough schools were available to fill the slots in all 40 games. Yeah, it’s a historically odd situation, but Nebraska will take it. Six of the team’s seven losses were by no more than eight points. And as this program continues to transition, it’s going to really benefit from the additional game and practice time with the new coaching staff this month.

    UCLA missed its mark, too, in 2015. Sure, using a true freshman quarterback, Josh Rosen, and a mess of defensive injuries impacted the Bruins. But the bigger issue in Westwood was the team’s lack of overall consistency, highlighted in November by a home loss to Washington State and a 19-point defeat to rival USC with the South Division title hanging in the balance. Backers are becoming restless with the inability of fourth-year head coach Jim Mora to get UCLA over the hump. And while a bowl victory isn’t going to clear the air, a loss will make for an even more contentious climate this offseason in Los Angeles.

    Why Nebraska Will Win

    The Huskers are liable to go old-school on UCLA, winning with superior line play.

    For all the problems that Nebraska has had this season, the team has been true to its past by developing quality offensive and defensive linemen. On D, tackles Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine headline a unit that ranks No. 8 nationally at stopping the run. And slowing down Bruin workhorse Paul Perkins would go a long way toward delivering the upset. On offense, All-Big Ten LT Alex Lewis is the catalyst for a front wall that’s given up only 13 sacks and has paved the way for an improved ground game. Nebraska averages 4.6 yards a carry, aided by shifty QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. and a resurgent RB Imani Cross.

    Why UCLA Will Win

    When the ball is in the air, advantage Bruins.

    Armstrong vs. Rosen could wind up being a mismatch that favors the latter. Armstrong torched L.A.’s other team, USC, in last year’s Holiday Bowl, but a repeat performance is unlikely. He’s trending down, throwing nine picks in his last three games, and the UCLA secondary presents another stiff challenge. The Bruins, led by All-Pac-12 safeties Jaleel Wadood and Randall Goforth, lead the conference in pass defense. Rosen, meanwhile, gets to face a suspect Husker defensive backfield. Even with late improvements, Nebraska still ranks No. 13 in Big Ten pass defense, and is tied for fewest picks. Rosen won’t look like a rookie any longer, burning Big Red with help from physical receivers Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte.

    Player Who Matters

    If Nebraska hopes to be successful on offense, UCLA NT Kenny Clark must be accounted for at all times.

    LB Myles Jack, DT Eddie Vanderdoes and CB Fabian Moreau all went from all-star contenders to the IR this fall. Clark, though, is a mainstay. And he’s to the Bruins what Collins is to the Huskers. Clark can blow plays up from the interior, with his next-level combination of strength, quickness and motor. When he’s doubled, and he will be doubled, it’ll be incumbent upon DE Takkarist McKinley and outside backers Deon Hollins and Aaron Wallace to take advantage off the edge. Mora knows the importance—and the possible payback—of pressuring Armstrong into hurried throws and rushed decisions.

    What’s Going To Happen?

    In an all-too-familiar script for Nebraska in 2015, the team will compete in a 60-minute fight before falling short.

    For a 5-7 squad, the Huskers will show well at the Foster Farms Bowl. However, they won’t have the athletes or the ball security to capture anything more than a moral victory. Perkins and Rosen will be more effective than Cross and Armstrong, who’ll again hurt his team with costly second-half turnovers. Rosen, in particular, will use this Santa Clara event to get a head start on his sophomore season, earning MVP honors with a couple of touchdowns and more than 300 yards through the air.

    Nebraska vs. UCLA Prediction

    Final Score: UCLA 35, Nebraska 28, Line: UCLA -6.5, o/u: 61
    Must See Rating: 5: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – 1: Property Brothers at Home on the Ranch… 2.5

    MORE: BOWLNANZA: 40 video previews for 40 bowl games

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