Boise State Broncos vs. UCLA Bruins Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 16th 2023

Boise State’s reward for winning the Mountain West Conference championship is a matchup against UCLA on Saturday in the LA Bowl at Inglewood, Calif.

The Broncos (8-5) rallied from the Nov. 12 firing of head coach Andy Avalos to win the program’s fifth Mountain West title.

At the time of Avalos’ firing, the Broncos were 5-5 and in danger of missing the postseason altogether for the first time in a full season since 2001. The prospect of enduring the program’s first losing campaign since 1997, when it was just one year removed from moving up to the present-day Football Bowl Subdivision, also loomed.

Victories over Utah State and Air Force to close the regular season, however, and a 44-20 rout of UNLV in the conference championship game at Las Vegas sends Boise State into the LA Bowl on a four-game winning streak.

Under coach Spencer Danielson — elevated to the full-time position on Dec. 3 after his tenure as interim head coach — the Broncos aim to extend another streak. The Mountain West champion is 2-0 in the brief history of the LA Bowl.

Utah State beat Oregon State 24-13 in the inaugural edition in 2021, and Fresno State blew out Washington State 29-6 last season.

UCLA (7-5) heads to the Inglewood looking to end the program’s futility in bowl games. A 37-35 loss to Pitt in the 2022 Sun Bowl extended UCLA’s losing streak in the postseason to three games, with the Bruins’ latest bowl win coming over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl to cap the 2014 season.

The Bruins’ 2021 Holiday Bowl matchup with North Carolina State was canceled due to positive COVID-19 results on the UCLA roster.

This year’s Bruins lineup heads into its bowl game without defensive end Laiatu Latu. The Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year and Lombardi Award winner as the nation’s top lineman opted out to begin preparations for the NFL draft.

UCLA will also be without defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn, who accepted the same position at crosstown rival Southern California on Dec. 1.

“Our entire (defensive coaching staff) will put together the game plan like we normally do,” Bruins head coach Chip Kelly said this week. “It’s the same thing with us on offense. I call the plays on game day, but our coaching staff has huge input on it. It’s not just one person coming in and saying, ‘Hey, we’re doing this.’

“So they’ll all game-plan together, and (defensive line and outside linebackers coach) Ikaika Malloe will call the plays on game day.”

As for the UCLA offense, the problems that plagued the Bruins at quarterback during their 1-3 finish to the regular season persist. Freshman Dante Moore entered the transfer portal, leaving Collin Schlee and Ethan Garbers as options. Both are listed as probable, with Garbers recovering from a forearm injury and Schlee’s injury undisclosed.

Boise State, meanwhile, replaces its starting quarterback, Taylen Green, who transferred to Arkansas earlier this week. Green was selected the Mountain West Freshman of the Year after completing 121 of 212 passes for 1,752 yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His nine rushing touchdowns ranked second on the team to running back Ashton Jeanty’s 14.

True freshman CJ Tiller, who has yet to throw a pass this season, is in line to start against the Bruins.

“CJ Tiller’s going to get the majority of (first-string) reps,” Danielson said regarding preparation for the LA Bowl. “He’s a smart football player, great kid to be around, but he preps his tail off. …

“No doubt, a big stage. The LA Bowl against UCLA, big stage. And I know he’s going to prep and be ready for those moments.”

–Field Level Media

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