Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
Baylor's opponent on Thursday appears to be headed in the right direction after a long stretch of mediocrity.
Who They Are: UCLA is a 9-4 team from the Pac-12 that is currently ranked No. 17 team in the country. Due to a quirk in scheduling, they are coming off two consecutive losses to Stanford, one in the regular season and one in the Pac-12 Championship Game. While the Air Raid offense has become all the rage in both the Pac-12 and the Big 12, the Bruins are one of the rare teams whose offense is built around the run game, headlined by do-everything senior RB Johnathan Franklin.
Who They Played: UCLA made quick work of two Texas-area teams (Rice and Houston) in non-conference play and they defeated Nebraska in a 36-30 home win. They got off to a slow start in conference play, losing to Oregon State at home and getting blown out at Cal, before reeling off five straight wins to win the Pac-12 South Championship, most notably a 38-28 victory over archrival USC, who has dominated the cross-town rivalry for most of the last decade.
Who To Watch: The Bruins certainly got their money's worth from their scholarship check to Franklin, who had an eye-popping usage total this season: 1,700 rushing yards and 13 TD's on 6.3 yards per carry, 32 receptions for 310 yards and 2 receiving TD's. At 5'11 195 with a 4.4 40, Franklin lacks the ideal size of a starting NFL RB, so he's currently projected to be a mid-round pick and a probably 3rd-down back at the next level.
You Might Have Heard Of: First-year head coach Jim Mora Jr., the scion of a football coaching family most memorable for Sr.'s "playoffs! playoffs?" rant that has appeared in numerous beer commercials. Mora has had relatively unsuccessful stints as a head man for the Seahawks and the Falcons, but he appears to have found a home at UCLA, where he has led the Bruins to their best season in seven years. A win on Thursday would give UCLA only their second 10-win season since 1998.