Coming into the season, the UCLA Bruins were expected to be one of the best teams in the Pac-12 and contend for a conference title. They finished 9-3 on the season and were one of the top teams in the conference even though a Pac-12 title didn’t happen.
While the Virginia Tech Hokies let an ACC Coastal Division slip through their fingers, they still have a chance to play for a meaningful bowl game as they will be facing off against a tough opponent in the Sun Bowl. Virginia Tech will need strong play from its veteran quarterback to have a chance.
The Bruins have won nine games on the year, but in order to win No. 10, they will need to rely heavily on quarterback Brett Hundley to take care of business on offense. The Heisman-caliber QB has been solid this season, passing for 2,845 yards and 28 touchdowns, hitting wide out Shaquelle Evans a team-high 43 times for 617 yards and eight touchdowns — only two other receivers have over 400 receiving yards. Hundley also leads the team in rushing with 587 yards and nine touchdowns.
Virginia Tech is led by a veteran quarterback, as opposed to the sophomore QB that leads the Bruins. Logan Thomas has been a multi-year starter for the program and led the Hokies to a BCS bowl just two short years ago, however, he hasn’t been quite the same since. Thomas has passed for 2,861 yards and 16 touchdowns to go along with 13 interceptions for the 8-4 Hokies. Willie Byrn has been his favorite target, catching 49 passes for 635 yards and two scores. Trey Edmunds has struggled this season, leading the 110th-ranked rushing attack with 675 yards and 10 scores.
Defensively, the Hokies have been one of the best units in the nation this season. Virginia Tech ranks eighth in the country in points against and fourth in yards against per game — you could argue that its defense keeps them above water. The Bruins rank 39th in points against per contest as well as 53rd in yards allowed with just over 391.
Virginia Tech and UCLA will meet for the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, at 2 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Dec. 31. The game will be broadcasted on CBS.
PREDICTION: UCLA 30, Virginia Tech 23
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.