We cap a Boxing Day of bowl games off with the Cactus Bowl down in the desert. This looks like the most attractive matchup, as it pits the Kansas State Wildcats against the UCLA Bruins. It would have been better if Josh Rosen was playing in this game, but he’s off for greener pastures in the NFL. Rosen will prepare for the draft and bypass the Cactus Bowl. He is still in concussion protocol, however, going by his response to why players skip bowl games, I’d say there was a good chance he would skip it anyway. Too much to lose, not much to gain in the Cactus Bowl. I criticize players who may be on the fence as a mid to late round selection, but for a guy who is a lock to go high, there really is no point.
According to reports Rosen prefers the Giants over the Browns, well, yeah. Any top quarterback prospect must be thrilled about the idea of going to Cleveland. There were rumors that Sam Darnold said he didn’t want to go to the Browns, which he swiftly rejected. Darnold denied it, but come on, who’s going to be want to go to that franchise? Instead of Rosen, the Bruins will go with backup Devon Modster. Modster passed for 376 yards and 2 touchdowns in relief of Rosen. He is a former four-star recruit, and is getting a head start on the starting job for next season.
K-State will counter with Skylar Thompson. Thompson started the year 3rd on the depth chart, but has positioned himself to potentially be the starter in 2018. Thompson was showing flashes of potential, and was on a roll to finish the season with 4 touchdown passes and a completion percentage of 74.15%. 74.15% and no mistakes is the most impressive numbers there, especially for a guy coming in with little experience. Thompson is a dual-threat, he can take off and run. In his limited playing time, he ran for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns. We’ll see what he can do against an UCLA defense who were pathetically awful defending the run. Head below for our free Kansas State vs. UCLA pick in the Cactus Bowl.
Kansas State Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins Betting Odds:
Kansas State -6.5(-110)
vs. UCLA +6.5(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Kansas State vs. UCLA Pick:
UCLA couldn’t stop a high school team on defense this season. It was a large reason for why Jim Mora got shown the door. I never liked Mora a few years ago, and the way I see it, they should have fired him already. It was worth the way, though, because UCLA got lucky and hired the services of former Oregon Ducks coach, Chip Kelly. It was a failed experiment in the NFL for him and he’s back where he belongs in college. His offense should work well at UCLA. The offense will work, but they must put in time improving their anemic defensive unit.
The Bruins finished 123rd on defense, allowing an average of 489 yards per game. Much of their sorrows came at attempting to stop the run. Note that they were 129th out of 130 teams in the FBS against the run, allowing 282.7 yards per game. K-State will look to pound the football. Their ground game should be difficult to stop. A dual-threat quarterback like Skylar Thompson is going to give them a headache. UCLA allowed 36.8 points per game in the regular season.
K-State have issues on defense, but it’s the opposite of what UCLA is trying to fix. The Wildcats can stop the run, but they’re horrendous defending the pass. They are ranked 129th against the pass, exactly the same spot where the Bruins are vs the run. UCLA can’t run the football, but I expect Modster to look good through the air. The extra time to prepare should help him in this spot. He is no slouch, but was just the victim of playing behind Josh Rosen. Both offenses should be able to exploit major weaknesses on the defensive side of the football. It should be a good one with some points coming in to cash the OVER at 61.
PICK: OVER 61 (-110)