Danny Kanell has UCLA pulling the upset on No. 18 NC State in the Holiday Bowl
When UCLA meets 18th-ranked NC State on Dec. 28, it’ll be a one-point underdog in its first bowl game since 2017.
The Wolfpack are looking to reach double-digit wins in a season for the first time since 2002.
It should be a fun affair when the two get together. ESPN’s FPI predictor gives the slight edge to NC State (58.5% chance to win) but the line from Vegas is only a point. Plenty of respect paid to the Bruins, who are 8-4 against the spread this year and closed the regular season on a high note.
After back-to-back losses to Oregon and Utah—just a three-point defeat to the Ducks and then a road loss to the eventual Pac-12 champs—UCLA downed Colorado by 24, put up 62 on USC at the Coliseum, and then thumped Cal by almost 30 points.
NC State’s defense has largely been the driving force behind a 9-3 season to this point, as that side of the ball is allowing only 19.7 points a game (16th nationally) and 4.9 yards per play (also 16th). So it’ll be strength on strength for the matchup. UCLA’s scoring output ranks 16th nationally in terms of offensive production (36.7 points a game).
Should be a good game.
On CBS Sports HQ this week, Brady Quinn and Danny Kanell offered their thoughts on the matchup. Quinn likes the Wolfpack.
“I just think NC State’s overall the better team,” he said. “You look at their passing attack and Devin Leary kind of got mixed in the shuffle of all the other good quarterback play in the ACC. He threw for 35 touchdown passes this year, over 3,400 yards. He’s coming back in 2022. I think the biggest thing too is their All-American tackle, Ikem Ekwonu, he’s gonna actually play in this game. Now, he’s slated to be a first-round pick at tackle, and he’s one of those guys you thought might opt out but instead he’s opting in and choosing to play in this game.
“This will be a tough attack taking on a UCLA team that likes to run the football, so they might eat up a good chunk of the clock, but I’m willing to lay the one point (spread) in this case. I think that’s the safer bet here. If I had to make a bet as far as the over/under (59.5), I’d probably take the over. I think as good as NC State’s defense has been, UCLA will have their moments. Chip Kelly has his personnel or formation that he’s gonna bring out that he hasn’t shown before for this NC State matchup that may catch them off guard early in this game and then see how they adjust, but I expect Devin Leary to put up some points, some big numbers in this one versus a high-pressure attack from UCLA.”
But Kanell disagrees with the larger takeaway.
“I think this will be a highly competitive game. I trust UCLA a little bit more,” he said. “They really finished the season strong. They lost to Oregon, lost to Utah, back to back games, you’re wondering which direction it’s going to go, then they won three straight to finish out the season and I thought that was big. There also was the flirtation with Chip Kelly meeting with Oregon, possibly going back home, he stays there and I think his players will appreciate that. Motivation will be a factor. Close to home, I think they’ll be able to travel a little bit better.
“And then I like the under. NC State has been pretty stout and I think they’ll hold it low-scoring, but I think UCLA will bring some exotic blitzs that could confuse Devin Leary some. The total at 59.5 (is) just a little too high for me so I’ll lean on the under with this one as well.”
Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. PT on FOX next Tuesday.