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UCLA, Baylor could light up the scoreboard in bowl game

Bruins and Bears combine to average 79.2 points per game, so the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Thursday night probably won't be a low-scoring affair.

December 27, 2012|By Chris Foster, Los Angeles Times
  • UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin (23) tries to stretch into the end zone against USC.
UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin (23) tries to stretch into the end… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

UCLA brings plenty of offense to the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl on Thursday night in San Diego. The Bruins will need it. The last time Baylor played a Pac-12 Conference team in a bowl game, scoreboard circuits were taxed to the max. The Bears outscored Washington, 67-56, in the Alamo Bowl last season. Times staff writer Chris Foster examines the game's matchups and story lines:

One for the road

UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin hopes this game becomes a victory lap. The senior gets one more chance to add to his UCLA career and season rushing records.

It's time to consider Franklin's legacy. Finding UCLA backs who have had equal, let alone better, seasons is a challenge.

TIMELINE: College football 2012-13 bowl schedule

Maurice Jones-Drew was electrifying in 2005, but he didn't even top 1,000 yards rushing, finishing with 914.

Karim Abdul-Jabbar had 1,571 yards rushing in 1995. Franklin topped him with 1,700 this season.

The one who Franklin probably can't match was Wendell Tyler, who ran for fewer yards, 1,388, in 1975 but helped the Bruins beat No. 1-ranked Ohio State in the Rose Bowl that season.

Franklin's rushing total stands 14th on the Pac-12's single-season rushing list, but he can climb to fifth with 229 yards against Baylor.

That's asking a lot, but Baylor does give up an average of 190 yards per game on the ground.

Turf war

Baylor's offense stretches from sideline to sideline.

"You'll see guys lined up closer to the sidelines than you will ever see," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said of the Bears' receivers. "You have to defend every blade of grass. That leaves a lot of room for running."

When Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III left to make Washington Redskins opponents miserable, Baylor was not left wanting at quarterback. Nick Florence has nearly matched Griffin's numbers with 4,121 yards passing and 31 touchdowns.

Florence has All-American receiver Terrance Williams to play catch with. Williams has 95 receptions for a nation-best 1,764 yards.

But what has made Florence better is the emergence of running back Lache Seastrunk, who declared last week that he would win the 2013 Heisman Trophy. He has rushed for 693 yards in the last five games.

Sack attack

UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr has a nation-high 131/2 sacks. Baylor has 13 as a team.

But UCLA has given up 46 sacks, the third-most in the nation.

The Bears, with a defense that ranks 119th out of 120 teams in the nation in yards given up, cannot afford to let UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley dictate terms.

"The Big 12 prepares you for any other conference," Baylor cornerback Joe Williams said in the Waco Tribune-Herald.

That theory will be tested by Hundley and the Bruins.

Finishing kicks

If the game comes down to a long field-goal try, Baylor seems to have an edge.

Baylor's Aaron Jones is 16 for 27 on field-goal tries but has made five from 40 yards or more. That includes two from 50 yards and beyond, with a long of 58.

UCLA's Ka'imi Fairbairn is one for five on kicks of 40 yards or more. His long is 48.

Fairbairn missed a potential score-tying, 52-yard field-goal try on a swamp-like field with 34 seconds left against Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game.

One thing that's a given: With offenses that combine to average 79.2 points per game, any game-winning field goal won't make the final score 3-0.

Right at home

Neither team has played in the Holiday Bowl, but UCLA has never lost in Qualcomm Stadium. The Bruins are 5-0, all against San Diego State.

Baylor has played football since 1899 but doesn't get to California much. The Bears have a 5-3 record in the state, against USC, California, Fresno State and San Jose State.

chris.foster@latimes.com

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