By Bernie Wilson
The Associated Press
SAN DIEGO — Now, this could be a Holiday Bowl.
The Baylor Bears (7-5), whose offense ranks first nationally after piling up an average of 578.8 yards, face the UCLA Bruins (9-4) on Thursday night in the game that calls itself “America’s Most Exciting Bowl Game.”
This game should more than ooze offense.
“When people predict a shootout and the head coach is standing up here talking about a shootout, if you’re a defensive guy, you bow up a little bit,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said Wednesday. “It’ll be a great night to be at Qualcomm watching football, because you’re going to see some quality football and some exciting football.”
Suffice it to say that the defensive coordinators have been busy.
Baylor senior quarterback Nick Florence, who replaced Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, leads the nation in total offense with 387.7 yards per game. Senior Terrance Williams is first in yards receiving at 147 per game.
The Bruins, who won the Pac-12 South, are hardly slouches.
Senior running back Johnathan Franklin is UCLA’s career leading rusher, with his 1,700 yards this season propelling him to a four-year total of 4,369 yards. He ran for 13 touchdowns and caught two scoring passes.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley is a dual threat, having thrown for 3,411 yards and 26 touchdowns, plus he was the team’s second-leading rusher with 365 yards and nine touchdowns.
The over-under for combined points is 81 1/2.
Baylor rebounded from a four-game losing streak in the middle of the season to win four of its last five, including its final three games. Among them was a 52-24 upset of then-No. 2 Kansas State, derailing the Wildcats’ hopes for a national championship.
The Bears rank fifth nationally in scoring, averaging 44.1 points per game.
Baylor proved last year that it can be potent in the postseason. It piled up 777 yards in a 67-56 victory against Washington in the Alamo Bowl, which got Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt fired two days later.
While Washington did a decent job on Griffin, the Huskies had no answers to stopping a Bears running game that finished with 482 yards rushing — including three backs topping 100 yards — and eight touchdowns rushing.
The Bruins are coming off consecutive losses to Stanford, a 35-17 defeat in the regular-season finale, and then a 27-24 defeat in the Pac-12 championship game.
Including victories against Washington State and USC, the Bruins allowed at least 27 points in each of their last four games.
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