EagleBank Bowl: UCLA Bruins VS. Temple Owls
UCLA Bruins (6-6) VS. Temple Owls (9-3)
Tuesday, December 29, 1:30 PM PST
Las Vegas Favorite: UCLA -4.5
Sam’s Take (56 – 22):
For the first time ever, UCLA and Temple will meet on a football field. The Bruins (with help from Navy) travel to Washington D.C. with a chance at a winning season. Meanwhile, Temple enters the EagleBank Bowl as one of the feel good stories of the 2009 season. The Owls are making just their third bowl appearance in program history.
The Bruins and Owls share quite a few statistical similarities, as both teams struggle on offense (UCLA 88th nationally in total offense, Temple 89th) but are considerably better defensively (UCLA 39th in total defense, Temple 37th).
If Rick Neuheisel is going to build momentum with this UCLA program then losing to Temple is out of the question. The Bruins won’t gain much respect with a win over the Owls, but a loss would set the program even further back in an increasingly competitive Pac-10 conference.
Temple hasn’t faced a team with UCLA’s talent since September 19th vs. Penn State. While I don’t expect the Owls to be blown out 31-6 (as was the case against the Nittany Lions), I do expect the Bruins to impose their will, especially on defense.
Al Golden’s club has one of the worst passing offenses in America (112th nationally in passing offense), which means UCLA will load the box to contain the excellent Temple rushing attack. DT Brian Price, LB Reggie Carter, and LB Akeem Ayers should get plenty of work.
Like many Pac-10 teams, the Bruins could use this extra month of practice time, continuing to developing freshman QB Kevin Prince. Prince was inconsistent throughout the regular season, but a solid effort on the east coast should give him something to build on heading into the off-season. Prince will face a Temple defense that ranks 74th nationally in pass defense, so he will certainly get the opportunity to make big plays.
The weather probably wont be great, and while Temple is used to playing in bad conditions I still expect UCLA to prevail. The Bruins can’t afford to take any opponent lightly and I don’t think they will overlook an Owls team that will treat this bowl like the national championship.
I expect UCLA to set the tone on defense and make enough noise on offense to pull away.
Prediction: UCLA 28 – Temple 14
UCLA Player to Keep an Eye On: WR Nelson Rosario – The physical Rosario is a difficult match-up for most defenses, and I expect the Temple DB’s to struggle with his combination of size and speed.
Temple Player to Keep an Eye On: RB Bernard Pierce – Pierce has been sensational for the Owls (1,308 yards rushing, 15 TDs) this season. He battled injury late in the season, but should be back strong for this game.
Dave’s Take (57 – 20):
If nothing else this year, UCLA showed that they could win the games they were supposed to win.
The Bruins played seven games against teams that finished with a winning record, and were 1-6 against those teams (with Tennessee being the only victory).
Against teams 6-6 or lower? A perfect 5-0.
Technically, obviously enough, Temple does fall into the winning record category. That said, picking up wins in the ultra-competitive Pac-10 and SEC is a bit more difficult than doing so in the MAC.
In fact, of the other three teams in the MAC with a winning record (Central Michigan, Ohio, and Bowling Green), Temple managed to only play one; @Ohio, a 35-17 loss.
As great of a season and a story as it has been for Temple, their very underwhelming schedule makes it hard for me to make a case that they belong in the tier of teams that beat UCLA (Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Cal, USC, Arizona) and not in the tier of teams that UCLA beat (including Kansas State and Washington).
Simply put, UCLA is the more talented team top to bottom; and when that has been the case this season, The Bruins have gone out and won the football game. Motivation shouldn’t be a problem, either; while this is only the third bowl appearance in Temple’s history, the Bruins have struggled to get into a bowl recently, and a bowl win would be a fantastic way to cap off the season.
UCLA should take care of business with a strong defensive effort and bring the Pac-10 to .500 in bowl season play.
Prediction: UCLA 27 – Temple 13