The Sun Bowl matchup between Northwestern and UCLA on Friday afternoon is expected to be a shootout. Looking at the numbers, this expectation is quite realistic. Both quarterbacks--Brett Basanez at NU, and Drew Olson at UCLA broke the 3,000 yard barrier this season. And for as often as both teams throw, both QB's are astonishingly proficient at avoiding mistakes. Basanez threw only six picks this year against 19 TDs, while Olson posted a stunning 31/3 ratio.
Both teams have good running games to support their passers. Wildcat freshmen Tyrrell Sutton rushed for 1300 yards, and UCLA back Maurice Drew rushed for 900. And neither team plays all that much defense. The Wildcats surrendered a minimum of 21 points to every team they played except Michigan State. Seven times, opposing offenses broke the 30 barrier. And Randy Walker's team has yet to see an offense with the firepower of the Bruins.
But UCLA has not played anything resembling defense this year either, giving up 40+ on four different occassions, including an embarrassing 52-14 loss at Arizona that ended their unbeaten season on November 5. They were easy pickings for Leinhardt, Bush & Co in the finale when the Trojans hung 66 on their crosstown rivals.
The Sun Bowl matchup will have to be this year's "Rose Bowl", in that is the only game that features a Big Ten and Pac-10 team. Northwestern played one Pac-10 foe this season, and the result was an embarassing 52-21 loss at Arizona State. UCLA is seen as a consensus favorite in this game, but this is an NU team that is different from the one embarrassed in the desert back in September. UCLA has imploded twice in November. It will be a shootout as expected, and I look for Basanez to cap his career by winning this gunslinging battle down near the Mexican border.
The game will kickoff at 1CST on CBS.