UCLA vs. Kansas State: Cactus Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

UCLA vs. Kansas State: Cactus Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Big 12

UCLA vs. Kansas State: Cactus Bowl Prediction, Game Preview


Three reasons why you should watch the Cactus Bowl, why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.

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Cactus Bowl
UCLA (6-6) vs. Kansas State (7-5)


Date:Tuesday, December 26th
Game Time: 9:00 pm
Venue: Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
Network: ESPN

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The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness
(1 best-39 worst): 
16 out of 39

2017-2018 Bowl Central: Schedules, Picks, Love
CFN Expert Consensus Confidence Picks

Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Cactus Bowl

There’s a terrific chance this turns into a wild shootout. Even though Josh Rosen won’t give this a go, it might not matter considering both defenses as mediocre – to be kind. Can it be the 43-42 shootout of two years ago – at West Virginia wild win over Arizona State? It’s not that crazy an ask.

If you’re ready to listen to three hours about what’s about to happen under Chip Kelly, this might not be quite that, but the future of UCLA is far more interesting than the present. No, Rosen won’t be around to quarterback the team next year, but it’s audition time for the new guy. UCLA players returning for 2018 are playing for an audience of one.

This might as well be called the Big 12 Cactus Bowl. The league has won the last four – including Kansas State’s win in 2013 over Michigan – five of the last six, and nine of the 11 since the conference became a fixture in Phoenix. The Pac-12? It’s been a part of two of the last three, and it lost both of them.

Here’s Why UCLA Will Win The Cactus Bowl

– You know that Kansas State pass defense? You probably don’t because it doesn’t exist. The secondary was absolutely roasted over the course of the Big 12 season, giving up 400 yards or more four times and 370 or more on two other occasions. Yeah, of course the Oklahomas and Oklahoma States are going to do that, but Kansas cranked up the production, too. It doesn’t matter who’s under center for the Bruins, the yards are going to come.

Shockingly for Kansas State, it’s miserable when it comes to moving the chains and converting on third downs. Fourth downs? Forget about it – the Wildcats had the second-worst offense in the nation in third down conversions. As bad as the UCLA defense might be, it’s okay at coming up with big stops to get off the field.

Don’t dismiss the idea that the Bruins might be really, really loose. It was a huge win just to get that sixth victory and get to a bowl game. But with the coaching change coming, and with the program in a total state of transition, there’s no pressure. Win, lose, whatever – it all changes as soon as Chip Kelly takes over.

Here’s Why Kansas State Will Win The Cactus Bowl

You know that UCLA run defense? You probably don’t because it doesn’t exist. It’s been a nightmare of a season for the UCLA D against any ground game with a pulse. On the year, the Bruins have allowed close to 3,400 yards and 31 scores, getting beaten up for 200 yards or more in every game but three – and in those, the secondary was hit hard. This hasn’t been the normal Kansas State rushing attack of the past. It might be against UCLA.

The Kansas State return game is as amazing as ever. D.J. Reed missed the last two games of the season, but he still averaged over 35 yards per kickoff return with a score, and averaged over 17 yards per punt return. When he’s not rocking, WR Byron Pringle is. Overall, the team is seven in the nation on punt returns and 15th on kickoffs.

The UCLA coverage teams? They’re among the worst in college football. finishing last in the Pac-12 against both kickoffs and punts.

UCLA has the second worst run defense in the nation, the coverage teams stink, and there’s little to nothing happening with the ground game. Oh yeah, and on top of that, the team gets absolutely doornailed on penalties. The Bruins get flagged over eight times per game for over 75 yards. Kansas State? Around 5.4 yards per game for around 48 yards.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Cactus Bowl

There was no reason whatsoever for Josh Rosen to play in this. He’s already hurt, he’s already a sure-thing top ten overall draft pick – if not No. 1 overall. The only thing that could’ve ruined this was by playing in this game that means something to the players and fans, but isn’t worth risking the guaranteed multi-millions. And no, the insurance policy doesn’t quite cover everything he’d lose if he suffered a catastrophic injury.

This would be the perfect time for Kansas State to go Kansas State again. If this was the Kansas State that’s normally been so successful under Bill Snyder, it controls the clock, dominates the special teams, and rolls with the running game, it wins this easily. But the Wildcats have managed to get caught up in shootouts too many times.

Kansas State won the Texas Bowl last season, but it’s been a rough bowl run under Bill Snyder since returning to the program in 2009. The Wildcats went 1-5 until breaking the gloom last year, including a 40-35 loss to UCLA in the 2015 Alamo. Nothing will hurt Snyder’s legacy, but another bowl win thrown on the pile would certainly be fantastic.

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Cactus Bowl?

Everything is place for Kansas State to win this in a walk. However, UCLA has the speed, talent, and athleticism to turn it loose and make this a tough battle for four quarters.

Expect a shootout, expect lots of points, and expect this to be a game worth staying up late for. It might start at 9:00 on the East Coast, but it should grab you from the beginning.

In the end, the Wildcats will control the clock and the game, even if UCLA hits a whole slew of home runs with its passing attack.

Final Score

Kansas State 37, UCLA 30
More Bowl Info & Get Tickets


Kansas State -2.5, o/u: 63

ATS Confidence: 4
5: Being in the bar already
0: Watching ball drop … and then trying to get into the bar

Must See Rating: 3.5
5: New Year’s Eve: Ministry of Sound, Defected London NYE
0: New Year’s Eve with Maroon 5, Las Vegas

Cactus Bowl History, Results

Dec. 27, 2017 Baylor 31, Boise State 12
Jan. 2, 2016 West Virginia 43 Arizona State 42
Jan. 2, 2015 Oklahoma State 30 Washington 22
Dec. 28, 2013 Kansas State 31 Michigan 14
Dec. 28, 2012 Michigan State 17 TCU 16
Dec. 30, 2011 Oklahoma 31 Iowa 14
Dec. 28, 2010 Iowa 27 Missouri 24
Dec. 31, 2009 Iowa State 14 Minnesota 13
Dec. 31, 2008 Kansas 42 Minnesota 21
Dec. 31, 2007 Oklahoma State 49 Indiana 33
Dec. 29, 2006 Texas Tech 44 Minnesota 41 (OT)
Dec. 27, 2005 Arizona State 45 Rutgers 40
Dec. 28, 2004 Oregon State 38 Notre Dame 21
Dec. 26, 2003 California 52 Virginia Tech 49
Dec. 26, 2002 Pittsburgh 38 Oregon State 13
Dec. 29, 2001 Syracuse 26 Kansas State 3
Dec. 28, 2000 Iowa State 37 Pittsburgh 29
Dec. 31, 1999 Colorado 62 Boston College 28
Dec. 26, 1998 Missouri 34 West Virginia 31
Dec. 27, 1997 Arizona 20 New Mexico 14
Dec. 27, 1996 Wisconsin 38 Utah 10
Dec. 27, 1995 Texas Tech 55 Air Force 41
Dec. 29, 1994 BYU 31 Oklahoma 6
Dec. 29, 1993 Kansas State 52 Wyoming 17
Dec. 31, 1992 Washington State 31 Utah 28
Dec. 31, 1991 Indiana 24 Baylor 0
Dec. 31, 1990 California 17 Wyoming 10
Dec. 31, 1989 Arizona 17 N.C. State 10

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