The college football bowl season is now getting closer to the higher-profile games. Here is a preview of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. between UCLA and Illinois.
UCLA (6-7 SU, 5-8 ATS, PR: 74) vs. Illinois (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS, PR: 76)
Bowl Trends: UCLA is 9-0 ATS after allowing 37+ pts BB games.
UCLA suffered another disappointing season, going 6-6 so Rick Neuheisel was let go as coach and was replaced by Jim Mora Jr. He finished 21-29 in four years at UCLA, including a 50-0 loss to USC on the road. OC Mike Johnson will coach the bowl game. In the Pac-12 championship game, yes they won their division, the Bruins at least showed some hear in falling at Oregon, 49-31. The problem for Neuheisel, a former UCLA qb, has been at that position. QB Kevin Prince (6-2, 230), who has been pretty marginal. But the Bruins will go as far as the junior can take them. UCLA averages 191 ypg (4.7ypc) on the ground and 198ypg in the air. They rely on the tag-team duo of Johnathan Franklin (5-10,198) and Derrick Coleman (6-0, 233), who have combined for nearly 1,700 yds. The top WR is senior Nelson Rosario (6-5, 218), a huge target and big-play receiver. The O-line has struggled at times, allowing 24 sacks. On defense, the Bruins allow 32.2pg, 192ypg on the ground and 233ypg in the air. That’s where the problem lies. Senior S Tony Dye was the team’s best player and he was out (will miss game due to academics). There have been issues with injuries as well. Freshman S Tevin McDonald (6-0, 194) has been serviceable, with 52 tackles and 3 picks. Up front, the Bruins struggle with rushing the passer (13 sacks) and they are 94th against the run. Junior Pat Larrimore (6-3, 253) leads the team with 81 tackles and has one INT, that was returned for a TD. On special teams, former soccer manager Tyler Gonzalez has made 7 of 10 with a long of 43. P Jeff Locke averaged 44.1 yds/punt. The return game is led by speedy Josh Smith (24ypr). They struggled to cover kicks (248ypr).
Illinois also fired their head coach Ron Zook, who went 6-6 and 2-6 in the Leaders Division.
Toledo coach Tim Beckman takes over. Illinois opened up with 6 straight wins, scoring 35ppg and holding teams to 18pg. But while the defense was solid (20ppg), the offense fell apart in conference play. They averaged just 23ppg overall, with 171ypg on the ground (4.1ypc) and 187ypg in the air. make matters worse, they have lost six straight games. DC Vic Koenning will coach the Illini. Soph. QB Nate Scheelhaase (6-3, 195) struggled with consistency and was rotating with freshman Reilly O’Toole (6-4, 214) at the end of the season. Scheelhaase does provide an ability run from out of the spread. But they really miss Mikel Leshoure (1697yds) who went to the NFL. Senior RB Jason Ford (6-0, 235) is a bruiser but lacks big-play ability. At WR, A.J. Jenkins (6-0, 185) led the team with 84 catches for 1,196yds and 7 TDs but there was nobody else with more than 25 catches. The O-line struggled, allowing 35 sacks. On defense, the Illini played well, allowing just 3.3ypc and only 159ypg in the air. Junior DE Whitney Mercilus (6-3, 265) led the team with 14.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles and 19.5 TFLs. Soph. LB Jonathan Brown (6-1, 235) has 19 TFLs and a team-high 102 tackles. They get great pressure on the qb with 36 sqacks so that helps the secondary. Senior CB Tavon Wilson (6-0, 205) is third in tackles with 4, adding one pick and two fumble recoveries. On special teams, they coverage was decent on punt but they allowed 23ypr on kicks. The return game was simply awful (2ypr on punts).
Key Injuries: UCLA: LB P.Larimore (thumb), QB T.Dye (acad), S D.Riley (stinger) are out. Illinois: RB J.Ford (acad) is out.
Keys: Can UCLA protect Prince and throw the ball in a tough Illinois pass defense? Can Illinois get up for this game after losing six straight?
If you don't have all the answers to these questions and others about the college bowl season, contact ATS Consultants, who has won 11 of the last 13 weeks in football and over 220 units in that span, at 1-800-772-1287.