The UCLA Bruins and Baylor Bears will meet in the 35th annual Holiday Bowl, marking the first appearance for either team in the San Diego classic and the first meeting between these teams.
The game kicks off at 9:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 27th at Qualcomm Stadium.
"We anticipate this is going to be one heck of a football game on December 27th," said John Wertz, president of the 2012 bowl game.
The Bruins enter the bowl with a 9-4 mark after winning the Pac-12 South Division.
"I know I speak for the coaching staff and our players when I say that the UCLA Football team is very excited to continue our 2012 season in the Holiday Bowl," said first-year Bruin head coach Jim Mora. "We have accomplished some good things this season, and are looking forward to playing one last time together as a team."
The UCLA offense is led by one of the top NFL draft prospects in senior running back Johnathan Franklin, the school's all-time rushing leader and a 2012 FWAA All-American. Franklin was on the list of the final three running backs in contention for the Doak Walker Award, eventually losing out to Wisconsin's Montee Ball. Franklin had a 6.34 yards per carry average while gaining 1,700 yards and tallying 13 touchdowns. He added 32 receptions for 319 yards.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. In addition, he ran for 365 yards and 9 TD's.
A pair of linebackers lead the UCLA defense. Redshirt sophomore Eric Kendricks is fifth in the FBS with 137 tackles and registered 10 or more tackles in eight games this season, including a season high 17 in a 45-43 win at Arizona State. Junior outside linebacker Anthony Barr is first in the nation in sacks (13.5) and has 20.5 total tackles for loss, along with four forced fumbles and two blocked kicks.
Baylor Coach Art Briles brings his Bears to San Diego with a 7-5 overall record after closing out the regular season with three straight victories, capped by a 41-34 victory over Oklahoma State.
"I'm extremely proud of our team for getting us into a bowl game," said Briles, " especially a bowl with the national reputation that the Holiday Bowl has earned through the years with all of the great games played there. It's an honor for Baylor to play a really good UCLA football team."
Baylor's powerful offense ranks first in the FBS and boasts the national leader in total offense in senior quarterback Nick Florence. The heir to Robert Griffin III averaged 387.7 yards per game. Florence has the luxury of throwing to the national leader in receiving yards in Biletnikoff Award finalist Terrance Williams (1,764 yards).
The Bears rank fifth nationally in scoring, averaging 44.1 points per game. BU's quick-strike attack has totaled nine one-play TD drives this season (16 TD drives of 3 plays or fewer) and scored 20 TD's on drives of one minute or less (40 of 2:00 or less).
Though it ranks 123rd as a unit (out of 124 FBS teams), the Baylor defense boasts three of the top tacklers in the Big 12. Linebacker Bryce Hager leads the Big 12 with 9.6 tackles per game, while linebacker Eddie Lackey (8.2) and nickleback Ahmad Dixon (8.2) both rank fourth in the conference.
The Baylor defense is tied for 10th nationally in interceptions (18) and has totaled eight picks in the last two games, including two returned for touchdowns by Lackey in back-to-back games. After forcing zero turnovers during first three Big 12 games, Baylor forced 15 (12 INT's, three fumbles) turnovers in its last six conference games. The Bears are 15-2 when forcing two or more turnovers during defensive coordinator Phil Bennett's two seasons.
Last year, Baylor's 67-56 thriller over Washington in the Alamo Bowl broke several records. Baylor rolled up 777 yards of total offense en route to its 67 points while Washington QB Keith Price ran for 3 TD's and threw for 4 to set another record for combined touchdowns by a single player. The two teams combined to set a record for total offense with 1,397 yards, and the 123 combined points set a record for total points in a regulation bowl game.
Baylor is 9-9 all-time in bowl games while UCLA is 14-16-1.
The preseason forecast from the Congrove Computer Rankings predicted Baylor would go 8-4 and UCLA 6-6. During the season, the computer was 7-6 in picking the winner of UCLA games and 8-4 with Baylor. It projects a 7.78-point win by the Bears over the Bruins in this bowl game.