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UCLA Notes: Breakout Quarterbacks, the “Cosmic Encounter” & the Holiday Bowl as Preferred Alternative

News and notes from the UCLA football program as the Bruins head north to Palo Alto to take on Stanford for the Pac-12 championship.

The "cosmic encounter"
The "cosmic encounter"
Jeff Gross

As GB mentioned the Bruins closed out their last regular season practice yesterday and they will have a walk through today before heading out to Palo Alto. I hear it is going to be raining during the game. But I don't expect that to bother the Bruins as we dealt with more severe weather (temperature wise) in Pullman three weekends ago and dealt with the rain at the Rose Bowl against Southern Cal.

There are some interesting reads to take in the day before game day. We already pulled into a great read from SBN's Bill Connelly into our cover on the frontpage. ESPN's Pac-12 blog has some fun reads including this piece from Kevin Gemmell discussing the similarities between Brett Hundley and Kevin Hogan:

"These guys are coming in ready," UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "A lot of it has to do with the offenses they are playing in in high school. There are all the passing leagues. And the spread offenses usually allow good athletes to succeed quicker."

The similarities between Hogan and Hundley (sounds like a great buddy film) are actually quite striking, statistically or otherwise. Both are mobile athletes. Both have talented, veteran running backs to help shoulder the weight. Both have former NFL quarterbacks coaches directing them.

"Nothing seems to bother them," said Pac-12 Network analyst and former UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel, who recruited Hundley. "I think what strikes me about Brett is how he handles all situations. There's no nervousness or trepidation. If he misses a pass, it's a one-clap and back to the huddle.

BTW Gemmell also made sure to give Neuheisel credit for both recruiting and red-shirting Hundley last season. And speaking of a Neuheisel recruit - Ryan Kartje from the OC Register has a great read on Anthony Barr, zeroing on the "cosmic encounter" between Barr and Barkley that has been seen and heard around the college football world (emphasis added):

[A]s rain poured on and off across the field at the Rose Bowl, Anthony Barr slipped behind the USC offensive line completely undetected on quarterback Matt Barkley's blind side. With his head turned, Barr knew how helpless Barkley was at this point. Like any great defensive player, he treasures moments like these, the surge of adrenaline right before a bone-crunching hit. He sped up just before impact.

The sack that followed, on its surface, is one of the most brutal hits of the college football season, made legend by the telling image of Barkley lying on the ground with a separated shoulder - an injury that would keep him out of the Trojans' next game against No. 1 Notre Dame. It also would help vault the Bruins into Friday's Pac-12 Championship at Stanford.

But below the surface, the hit has come to represent something else - the changing mindset of what once was a little-feared defense and the completion of one of the most interesting transformations in all of college football this season: the evolution of Barr from a running back to All-Pac-12 linebacker in the blink of an eye.

Bruins could use another moment like that in Palo Alto rain (and NO - we are not wishing any injuries to Hogan - so settle down Stanford fan) to pull off the upset tomorrow night.

Elsewhere, I find it hilarious that LA Time's Trojan beat writer Gary Klein has been reduced to writing pieces for the upcoming championship game now that the Trojans are going to be packed to some irrelevant bowl. Klein's piece is about the unusual rematch between UCLA and Stanford within 6 days and he digs up previous examples in CFB (have to go way back to fine one in CFB) and in the NFL. I don't think those examples really prove anything one way or the other.

Also, from the LAT Chris Foster writes how the new Pac-12 arrangement of splitting the conference into two divisions has been "beneficial" to UCLA, which is basically an underhanded attempt to take a dig at the Bruins' accomplishments this season. But Foster did provide this interesting tidbit about UCLA and the Holiday Bowl:

If not headed for Pasadena on Jan. 1, UCLA will be picked for the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28 or Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27. Oregon State would be the other Pac-12 team in play. Oregon is likely headed to the Fiesta Bowl.

"If the Alamo Bowl takes Oregon State, then it is between UCLA and USC," said Bruce Binkoswki, executive director of the San Diego Bowl Game Assn., which produces the Holiday Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl. "UCLA beat USC, that's how we would look at it."

There may be other ways to view it, since bowl game officials often negotiate with each other to arrive at favorable matchups.

UCLA would be more likely to sell its ticket allotment for the Holiday Bowl in San Diego rather than Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

The Holiday Bowl could also use the boost from having a team from the Los Angeles television market. The game's title-sponsor contract with Bridgepoint Education expires after this year, though the company has an option to renew for 2013.

Binkowski said the Holiday Bowl does not make selections based on tickets sales by schools or television markets. However, he added, "We have never had UCLA, USC or Stanford in our game. If we had the opportunity, we would certainly welcome it."

I WANT the Rose Bowl. But as an alternative I'd much rather have the Bruins go to the Holiday Bowl than the Alamo Bowl.