To close out two seasons that didn’t quite live up to expectations, UCLA and Nebraska will clash in the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Saturday night.
After back-to-back 10 win seasons, UCLA (8-4) was expected to compete for the Pac-12 crown but went just 5-4 in the conference and finished third in the South Division. The preseason-ranked No. 13 Bruins started off a promising 4-0 but injuries and back-to-back losses derailed any outside hopes of making the College Football Playoff. They still had a chance to make the Pac-12 title game but fell 40-21 to rival USC in the season finale.
The advantage on Saturday looks to be UCLA’s but coach Jim Mora Jr. doesn’t expect to roll over anyone the Foster Farms Bowl. “Facing a storied program like Nebraska presents our young men with a tremendous challenge,” Mora said.
UCLA led by quarterback Josh Rosen, who was named Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year after throwing for 3,349 yards and 20 touchdowns. The Nebraska pass defense ranked No. 13 of 14 Big Ten teams, allowing 288.2 yards per game.
Nebraska won nine games in each of their last seven years but in Mike Riley’s first season in Lincoln, the Cornhuskers (5-7) finished under .500. However, with 80 bowl slots to fill, the NCAA dipped into the 5-7 ranks and called Nebraska’s number out of the Big Ten. The Huskers never had a winning record but played seemingly nothing but close games, with all seven losses coming by 10 points or less and six of them coming by one score. Nebraska did have one of this season’s hallmark wins, defeating then-undefeated No. 7 Michigan State 39-38 in Lincoln in November.
The offense is driven by dual-threat quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., who threw for 2,856 yards and ran for 324 more this season and accounted for 27 total touchdowns. UCLA ranked No. 4 in the Pac-12 in total defense, allowing 393.5 yards per game.
Nebraska and UCLA will meet for the third time in four years. UCLA won 36-30 at the Rose Bowl in 2012 before beating the Huskers 41-21 in Lincoln in 2013. The Bruins have won each of their last two bowl games while Nebraska lost to USC in last year’s Holiday Bowl.
TV Channel: ESPN
Start Time: 9:15 p.m.
Prediction : Nebraska gets excellent fan support but will likely be outnumbered by the UCLA faithful, who only have to travel upstate in California to make the game. The Bruins, starting with Rosen, have too much firepower for the Cornhuskers and that will put pressure on Armstrong, who has 16 interceptions, to keep pace. UCLA prevails but Nebraska, as they always seem to, keep it within 10 points.