Posted: Wednesday December 21, 2005 4:34PM; Updated: Thursday December 22, 2005 12:48PM
Bowl Breakdown: Sun
No. 17 UCLA (7-4) vs. Northwestern (6-5)
Dec. 30, 2 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Bowl Stadium (50,426)
El Paso, Texas
SI.com's Stewart Mandel analyzes the matchup.
Breaking down UCLA
Senior Drew Olson came into his own this season, tossing 31 touchdown passes.
John W. McDonough/SI
In his third year running coach Karl Dorrell's pro-style West Coast offense, everything finally clicked for senior quarterback Drew Olson, who threw for 3,055 yards, 31 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His favorite target was gifted tight end Marcedes Lewis. Elusive tailback Maurice Drew is a dangerous runner and return man. Injuries have depleted the Bruins' offensive line.
UCLA needed a high-scoring offense to compensate for its horrendous defense. With two freshmen and two sophomores starting up front, the Bruins had one of the nation's worst rushing defenses, allowing 238.6 yards per game, ranked 111th (out of 117 teams) in total D. The one bright spot was linebacker Spencer Havner. UCLA will be without suspended kicker Justin Medlock.
Breaking down Northwestern
The Wildcats' spread offense exploded in 2005 under the direction of four-year starting quarterback Brett Basanez, ranking eighth nationally (492.7 yards per game). Basanez was complemented by diminutive freshman tailback Tyrell Sutton, the nation's sixth-leading rusher (1,390 yards, 16 touchdowns). Mark Philmore leads a deep receiving corps.
Like UCLA, a young defensive line contributed to Northwestern ranking dead-last in total defense (482.9 yards per game). With almost no pressure up front, the Wildcats' defensive backs were routinely burned for big plays. Their one saving grace was a penchant for interceptions (17). Linebacker Tim McGarigle swarms from sideline to sideline and led the Cats with 139 tackles.
It's two high-powered offenses against a pair of woeful defenses in what should be a high-scoring affair. While the precision with which Basanez runs the offense could cause fits for the Bruins, Northwestern will have more trouble matching up with UCLA's offensive athleticism, particularly Lewis and Drew.