Kansas State vs West Virginia : In press conferences he shows that he is smart, mature, and can provide well thought out answers while not sounding like a media robot. I think Rosen is the best QB in this draft class and is certainly worth watching.
The College Football Playoff and the New Year’s Six are drawing ever closer as we now enter the post-Christmas slate of Bowl games. The last of three Bowl games on Boxing Day pits the UCLA Bruins against the Kansas State Wildcats in the Cactus Bowl. Who will come out on top in a year that has been or may be their head coaches last?
Kansas State Wildcats season recap
In what may be Bill Snyder’s final season as the Wildcats head coach they have reached their eighth straight bowl game under his guidance. However, it didn’t always look as though they’d be making it.
After two big victories to open the season against minnows, the Wildcats lost three of their next four games to slip to 3-4 with several tough games left on their schedule. With that said, though, the final of those three losses was against Oklahoma, and it was by just one score. The Wildcats gave them a serious run for their money.
From that game on, the Wildcats were much better. They would lose only one more game all season, a five-point loss to West Virginia, with wins over Oklahoma State and then Iowa State in the final regular season game.
Kansas State are riding high going into this game, looking to send Bill Snyder off into the sunset with his second consecutive Bowl victory.
UCLA Bruins season recap
It’s been a rough year in Pasadena. Through the first two weeks, the Bruins may have seemed as though they were once again on the up. A wild, 34-point comeback against the Texas A&M Aggies in the season opener followed by a huge win against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors left fans thinking Rosen was the unquestioned best player in college football.
However, from then on, the Bruins just couldn’t string together any wins or their form. They lost two straight games, against Memphis and then Stanford, and followed that with a win followed by a loss for most of the season. The only exception to that trend was when they lost two straight games to the Huskies and then the Utes.
The season really reached a new low, though, when following a 28-23 loss to USC, Jim Mora was fired. On his birthday, no less. However, in the season finale, the Bruins got their all-important sixth win against the Cal Golden Bears to send them bowling.
Keys to the game
Stop the run – The Bruins rush defense has been horrible, truly horrible. They have allowed an incredible 282.7 rushing yards per game, second most in the FBS. This has been potentially the biggest factor In their six losses. They can’t get off the field, stop big rushing plays, and they don’t give the offense enough time to score points.
Against a Kansas State team that can run the ball very well the Bruins must find a way to limit the ground game.
Run the ball – Again, this applies largely to UCLA. In addition to not being able to stop the opposition running the ball, the Bruins have seriously struggles running the ball. They manage just 117.1 rushing yards per game and have left Josh Rosen way too much to do on a weekly basis. However, this game they may not have Rosen due to injury. Can they pass the ball as well without him?
I doubt they can, so they need to find a way to move the ball, get first downs, and create big plays on the ground against the Wildcats.
Protect the QB – Kansas State will have a freshman QB, UCLA might play a freshman QB. For both of these players it is important they aren’t running for their life on every play or aren’t spooked that they’re about to be hit. Pressure will lead to turnovers and stalled drives with these inexperienced QBs, and that isn’t a situation either team wants.
Even if Rosen does play, he is coming off a concussion. UCLA and Rosen can’t afford to have him subject to big hits throughout the game.
Matchup to watch
Both offensive lines vs both defensive lines – This may seem like a given, but this is, quite frankly, by far the most important aspect of this game. I believe this game will be decided by these units as these teams matchup so poorly in these areas.
UCLA cannot run the ball or defend the run, while Kansas State run the ball very well and defend the run well too. In addition, the Wildcats need their defensive line to create pressure on the QB to give some relief to their shoddy secondary. This game will be decided in the trenches and whichever team can overpower the other here will win.
Draft prospect to watch – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
There is a ton of uncertainty regarding Josh Rosen and his availability for this game. On Saturday news broke that he was reportedly medically ruled out for this game due to a concussion he suffered against Cal on November 24. However, since then he has spoken about playing and that he hasn’t been ruled out. Thus, I can’t not make him the prospect to watch.
Whether he likes it or not, if he declares for the draft, he is a standout candidate for the Browns with Pick #1, and it isn’t hard to see why. Unlike the Josh Allen’s, Patrick Mahomes’, Baker Mayfield’s, or Sam Darnold’s of the world, Rosen is picture perfect as a passer. When you watch his film, he looks exactly like the stereotypical QB in every way.
His footwork is great, his throwing mechanics are textbook, his pocket movement is incredible, and his arm strength and accuracy is excellent. What’s more, he has put up great numbers with an inconsistent receiving corps, no help from a ground game, and while being hit a lot, his toughness is underrated.
The only real issues with Rosen is his off-field, character related issues. During his time at UCLA he has been knocked for being too big for the campus, responding poorly to his coaching, being immature, and being a bit of a loose cannon on social media. To me? This is all fairly insignificant. The issues he is having has not affected his play on the field or his success as a student.