Kansas State University

Alamo Bowl matchup: When UCLA has the ball

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley will likely be headed to the NFL Draft after Friday’s Alamo Bowl.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley will likely be headed to the NFL Draft after Friday’s Alamo Bowl. AP

UCLA OFFENSE

Line: The Bruins’ biggest weakness has been up front, allowing 38 sacks. The main reason has been a rotating group of freshmen and sophomores starting games and getting teed off on by opposing defensive fronts. They’re not all bad, however, with junior center Jake Brendel (second-team All-Pac-12) as the anchor. Without injured DT Travis Britz up front for K-State, the Wildcats lose much of their advantage on the interior.

Backfield: Junior QB Brett Hundley is a three-year starter likely playing in his final game before heading to the NFL. Hundley, UCLA’s career total-offense leader, has thrown for 3,019 yards but also run for more than 500 and is a dual threat in the mode of Auburn’s Nick Marshall and TCU’s Trevone Boykin — two players that gave K-State fits in losses this season. RB Paul Perkins led the Pac-12 with 1,381 rushing yards and is built to grind out carries at 5-foot-11, 198 pounds.

Receivers: Hundley likes to spread the ball around. Ten players have at least 10 catches, and six players have at least 200 receiving yards. Hundley’s favorite targets are junior WR Jordan Payton, the team’s leading receiver with 63 catches for 896 yards and seven touchdowns, and his safety blanket has been undersized TE Thomas Duarte (6-3, 220 pounds), who has 27 catches for 521 yards and four touchdowns.

K-STATE DEFENSE

Line: The Wildcats are nearing the end of a disappointing pass-rushing season. Senior DE Ryan Mueller leads the way with 5 1/2 sacks, while Marquel Bryant has 4 1/2. Those are fewer sacks than Mueller had by himself last season. The absence of injured DT Travis Britz will also hurt, but UCLA has allowed more than three sacks a game.

Linebackers: Jonathan Truman led K-State with 114 tackles and should once again pave the way for the middle of the defense. Dakorey Johnson, Will Davis and Elijah Lee should also help, depending on the formation. Johnson and Davis have split time alongside Truman, while Lee has served as mostly a pass-rush specialist.

Defensive backs: Another bowl, another adjustment at free safety. It seems like every year K-State has to deal with injuries in its secondary. This year Nate Jackson, a redshirt junior with limited playing experience, will take over for Dylan Schellenberg, who is out with a fractured leg. He will need to play well alongside Dante Barnett, because Morgan Burns and Danzel McDaniel will need all the help they can get against a versatile UCLA offense. McDaniel has played well in his first season, while Burns has been up and down.

Edge: UCLA

  Comments