Sun Bowl Primer: Virginia Tech vs. UCLA
By Eric Russell
This year's edition of the Sun Bowl again features a Pac-12 team from Southern California facing an ACC opponent from the Coastal Division. This year the game features two teams that arguably have underachieved. Both teams came into the season ranked in the Top 25, but when they take the field Tuesday, only UCLA will be ranked after a regular season of letdowns in big games.
All that said, the teams still seem evenly matched, so it should shape up to be a good contest.
Motivation: The Hokies had high hopes coming into the season. They had a shot to play in the ACC title game until the final week of the regular season despite shaky play during the year. The Sun Bowl is one more chance for Virginia Tech and Logan Thomas to prove themselves against a quality opponent. The Hokies did get a victory over Miami late in the regular season, but a win will go a long way in easing the sour feelings of the final months of 2013. The Hokies have gone 2-3 after starting the season 6-1.
If You've Never Seen Them: Defense is the name of the game for Virginia Tech. Frank Beamer's team has the nation's eighth-ranked scoring defense, giving up 17.4 points per game. Even though it was the season opener, it's still worth noting that this defense held Alabama to one offensive touchdown. Although the defense will be without Kyle Fuller and possibly Antone Exum, several reliable backups have seen action.
Weakness: Inconsistent play on offense has doomed Virginia Tech for much of the season. In particular the run game, which is virtually a non-factor most times. That's a major weakness considering how the passing game has had both moments of brilliance and grave disasters.
Motivation: Much like the Hokies, the Bruins had chances in big games and didn't come through. The Bruins also can secure their first ten win season since 2005. Another incentive for UCLA is to reverse its bowl fortunes. The team hasn't fared to well in the postseason in recent years. Since 2000, the Bruins have a 3-7 record in bowl games. The most recent win was in the 2009 EagleBank Bowl.
If You've Never Seen Them: Brett Hundley is an impressive athlete. The Bruins quarterback can pass the ball around and also is a physical runner. Time after time he has made big plays. A performance similar to the one he put up in the rivalry win over USC could give UCLA another big win. There's also a lot of intrigue around freshman Myles Jack, a two-way player who could be the team's answer for departing linebacker Anthony Barr or an all-conference running back.
Weakness: The UCLA offensive line is more of a question mark than a weakness. In some games, they've held there own, but Virginia Tech's defensive front will give it one of its toughest tests of the year. The Hokies rank near the top of the nation in sacks.
Las Vegas Hilton Line: UCLA -7.
Related: Scouting The Sun Bowl