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Kansas State Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins Point Spread - Pick

Kansas State Wildcats (7-5 SU, 5-6-1 ATS) vs. UCLA Bruins (6-6 SU, 4-8 ATS)
Cactus Bowl
Date/Time: Tuesday, December 26, 2017 at 9PM EST
Where: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
TV: ESPN

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: KSU -2.5/UCLA +2.5
Over/Under Total: 64.5

The Cactus Bowl goes off on December 26, with the Kansas State Wildcats and UCLA Bruins doing battle the day after Christmas. UCLA was able to win their last game against Cal on November 24 to get eligible for this. It's been a rough season, but coming off a 4-win season, a bowl game is some progress. It wasn't enough to keep Jim Mora employed, as the Bruoins head coach was dumped after the USC game, with Jedd Fisch coming in on an interim basis to lead the Bruins to the win on the 24th. Kansas State last played on the 24th, as well, beating Iowa State, 20-19 to finish the regular season 7-5. Both teams had over a month to get ready for this, so who can get it done in the desert on the 26th? We'll try to answer that in this Cactus Bowl prediction.

The Wildcats had an uneven season coming out of a competitive Big 12 Conference. Still, for them to close the season with big wins over a couple good teams in Iowa State and Oklahoma State was a positive development for Kansas St. Four wins in their last five games is a promising look for this game. They rely on a strong run-game, while their defense excels in stopping the run. Their ability to air it out is also dicey, while opponents can certainly air it out against the Wildcats. Ranked a woeful 129th in passing defense would stand out as a major handicap heading into this particular matchup.

With QB Jesse Ertz lost for the season, Skylar Thompson has stepped in as a redshirt freshman and has been decent as a budding dual-threat type of quarterback. Their run-game features a cabaret of different rushers who have been productive, with Alex Barnes, Delvin Warmack, and Winston Dimel. Useful QB/RB Alex Delton is questionable. Byron Pringle is a good wide receiver and a dangerous return man., while Isaiah Zuber and Dalton Schoen (questionable) have also helped carry the load aerially. But running is more their bread-and-butter and they should be licking their chops facing one of the worst rushing defenses in the country in this bowl-game.

For those who want to say the Kansas State defense is better than UCLA's might have a point. Sure, they were victimized on occasion with some of the more-powerful Big 12 offenses they played, but who wasn't? They get good play in the front-seven, especially from DT Will Geary and active Jayd Kirby. Other than those two, the playmaking has been minimal. The secondary has been victimized left and right this season. DJ Reed (questionable) has four picks and is strong as a return man, as well. Denzel Goolsby, Duke Shelley, and Denzel Goolsby all have made multiple interceptions and will look to make a lot of plays in this game or it could be a long day.

With UCLA canning their head coach, only so much praise can be given on their season. By their standards and expectations, a 6-6 record wasn't good, but some measurable progress was made for Chip Kelly to inherit next season. As of now, it will be apparently-well-regarded assistant Jedd Fisch in the interim capacity and the team responded well to him with the win over Cal. QB Josh Rosen might be making his final college appearance and if it is, he'll be looking to impress scouts. He commandeers a high-octane aerial offense. How well their often-exploited defense holds up will end up telling a big part of this story.

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A big part of the UCLA offense is Josh Rosen, as he has passed for 3756 yards this season. They have a deep aerial crew that was able to recover from the loss of top receiver Darren Andrews. Jordan Lasley has had some big games lately, with a big assist from guy like Theo Howard and whatever youngsters are jockeying for position for touches in this offense. Soso Jamabo and Bolo Olorunfunmi have done most of the work in a Bruins' run-game that is often times not really up-to-snuff.

All season long, the UCLA defense has been a major obstacle to victory. There were a few late developments that perhaps offered some hope to the situation. Their run-defense, which has gotten their teeth kicked in a lot this season, actually held its own against USC, who can really run the ball. We'll see how they hold up against a Kansas State offense that likes to pound away with the rushing attack. This defense has given up an average of 37 points a game. They have talent in the secondary, but with the issues in the front-seven, it's hard to notice sometimes.

This might not be as easy at it looks. While it makes sense to picture the UCLA aerial attack getting over on Kansas State's bad pass-defense, while KSU's run mangles the lousy Bruins' run-defense, it's never quite that easy, is it? While both teams present different matchup quandaries with their respective defenses, I get the feeling that it will be the Bruins' greater explosive-potential manifesting in this one. I'll take the Bruins and the points.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the UCLA Bruins plus 2.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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