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Gameday Predictions: UCLA vs. Boise State

Senior wide receiver Logan Loya (left) and redshirt senior defensive back Alex Johnson (right) are pictured. (Photos by Julia Zhou/Assistant Photo editor. Photo illustration by Mia Tavares/Assistant Design director)

By Joseph Crosby, Grace Whitaker, Jack Nelson, and Gavin Carlson

Dec. 16, 2023 10:15 a.m.

UCLA football (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) is staying local for its third bowl game in as many seasons, traveling south to SoFi Stadium to face Mountain West champions Boise State (8-5, 6-2 Mountain West). Here are the predictions for the Bruins’ final game of the season from Sports editor Joseph Crosby, senior staff writers Jack Nelson and Grace Whitaker and staff writer Gavin Carlson.

Joseph Crosby
Sports editor
Prediction: UCLA 23, Boise State 20

The scores we pick for these games – at least for me – are oftentimes arbitrary.

It’s been hard enough trying to accurately predict the outcome of UCLA’s games, let alone the exact number of points either team will score. Thus, for this week, I’m picking a score that carries a historical connotation.

An astute fan of Los Angeles sports might notice that the 23-20 line is the same score from Super Bowl LVI when the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium, the site of the LA Bowl.

Ironically, the upcoming showdown between UCLA and Boise State is just the second postseason college or NFL football game to be played at the home of the Rams and Los Angeles Chargers since that Super Bowl. The other was last year’s LA Bowl.

There are a number of parallels between UCLA’s third attempt at a bowl win since coach Chip Kelly joined the program and that Super Bowl.

The Bruins, like the Rams, are effectively playing at home, with SoFi Stadium actually closer to campus than the Rose Bowl. Likewise, the Broncos and Bengals both hail from flyover states and feature orange as a main color in their uniforms.

And no instance of deja vu in this year’s LA Bowl would be complete without a game-winning drive.

Redshirt junior quarterback Ethan Garbers will connect with senior wide receiver Logan Loya to put UCLA ahead 23-20 late in the fourth quarter, before its defense, even without senior defensive lineman Laiatu Latu, shuts down any Boise State hopes of a last-minute miracle.

As it did nearly two years ago, Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” may just be blasting from the speakers at the end of the fourth quarter – this time to celebrate one of the city’s collegiate teams.

Jack Nelson
Daily Bruin senior staff
Prediction: UCLA 21, Boise State 28

It was a long time ago in a football world far, far away.

Quarterback Brett Hundley was on his Bruin farewell tour. Three days later, his successor Josh Rosen enrolled.

It was the 2014 season finale, and the day UCLA last won a bowl game, defeating Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl behind 194 yards and two touchdowns from running back Paul Perkins.

This occurred when I was midway through seventh grade. I’m now in my senior year of college. That drought is far too long for any respectable football program to endure.

But the Bruins will have to endure even more Saturday.

Simply put, Boise State running back Ashton Jeanty is an unstoppable force. He averages 164.9 all-purpose yards per game – totaling over 1,800 on the season – and with his team missing its top two signal callers, it’ll be him against everyone.

There’s no reason to believe UCLA’s offense will do enough to secure a victory. The defense has put the Bruins in a winning position game after game, but somehow, it’s almost never enough. An abhorrent lack of scoring is why the team finds itself in, of all places, the LA Bowl.

This is a meaningless, uninteresting and downright yawn-worthy postseason matchup, perhaps the worst UCLA has played since that fateful Alamo Bowl nearly 10 years ago.

Maybe there’s some early bowl season chaos in store, and for the sake of an entertainment factor, I hope there is.

But if the last near-decade is evidence, any thrills will come at the Bruins’ expense.

Grace Whitaker
Daily Bruin senior staff
Prediction: UCLA 7, Boise State 21

When I saw the pick six in the opening seconds of UCLA’s first loss of the season to Utah, I thought there was no way the Bruins would even make it to a bowl game.

As the season continued, it was much to my surprise that they surpassed the six-win plateau to secure a bowl game appearance.

But after that benchmark, the Bruins appeared to shift. They lost three of their final four games, including losses to Arizona State and California – teams which both rank in the bottom five of the Pac-12.

Barring the momentary rivalry game win against USC that presented a glimmer of hope in a sea of uncertain losses, UCLA did not appear to be a semblance of the same team it was last year, or even the one that started the season on a 3-0 high.

For this reason, Boise State will be the next team in a string of opponents to get the better of UCLA this season.

Both teams will go into Saturday as shells of their prior roster, with many players leaving for the transfer portal or opting to forgo their final game of the season. For UCLA that notably includes freshman quarterback Dante Moore, who’s entered the portal, and Latu, who has elected not to play in the game.

On the Boise State side, this includes starting quarterback Taylen Green, who has since transferred to Arkansas.

The winner of the game will be as simple as whichever team can make use of what they’ve got left. And the season-long inconsistency from UCLA, juxtaposed with Boise State’s Mountain West conference title, is what leads me to believe that the Bruins will cap off their season with another loss.

But who knows, maybe they’ll surprise me again.

Gavin Carlson
Daily Bruin staff
Prediction: UCLA 28, Boise State 24

It’s no secret that the excitement surrounding bowl season has seriously declined in the past few years.

The implementation of the College Football Playoff placed the three games involved in the four-team bracket on a higher pedestal than the rest of bowl season.

Next, there’s the rise in players ending their college careers a contest earlier to avoid bowl-game injuries that could impact their NFL Draft stock.

And finally, the modern NCAA transfer portal that opens before bowl season has resulted in programs losing handfuls of players before the postseason even begins.

Enter the 2023 LA Bowl.

While it was never CFP-or-bust for either UCLA or Boise State entering the year, the second and third causes of the downfall of bowl season will be out in full force on Saturday at SoFi Stadium.

The game’s would-be headline player, Latu, is skipping the affair to protect his first-round draft stock. And both sides lost several starters to the transfer portal, including the would-be Bronco starting quarterback in Green.

So with the aforementioned circumstances, what narrative can I pull on to make a prediction?

I’ll go for the classic method of choosing the side I believe wants it more, despite having no actual knowledge of such.

The non-Power Five program usually gets that nod in a matchup like this one, but not this time.

Boise State is fresh off a win in the Mountain West championship game, and coach Spencer Danielson went from interim to permanent head coach as a result. UCLA lost 33-7 the last time it was on the field, and Kelly’s spot on the hot seat elevated to a plane flying over Westwood calling for his job.

This is the rare case where the more storied program, and more specifically its coach, have far more to play for.

That combined with the simple fact that UCLA actually has its starting quarterback is enough for me to pick the Bruins in a game that is a coin-flip in every sense of the phrase.

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Joseph Crosby | Sports editor
Crosby is the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats. He is also a fourth-year statistics student.
Crosby is the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats. He is also a fourth-year statistics student.
Grace Whitaker | Sports senior staff
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Jack Nelson | Sports senior staff
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
Nelson is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a contributor on the men's tennis and women's tennis beats.
Gavin Carlson | Sports staff
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
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