First look: No. 11 Kansas State

No. 14 UCLA Bruins (9-3, 6-3) vs. No. 11 Kansas State (9-3, 7-2)
Kickoff: Friday, Jan. 2, 3:45 p.m. PT, Alamodome (San Antonio)
TV: ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Brock Huard, Shannon Spake)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Coach: No team is as synonymous with a single coach as Kansas State is with Bill Snyder.

The Wildcats first hired Snyder in November 1988, plucking away the 49-year-old offensive coordinator from Iowa. At that point, K-State was arguably the worst football program in the country. It was the only one to have lost 500 games, including 114 over the previous 14 years. It had reached just one bowl game, which it lost. (Fun fact: That was the 1982 Independence Bowl, the first college football game ever broadcast live on ESPN. This year, the network will air all but four of the 38 bowls.) Things were so bad that Sports Illustrated asked: “Why bother? Why send fine young men onto the field every Saturday in autumn to be humiliated?”

Snyder won just one game in his debut season, but that at least ended the program’s three-year wait (!) for No. 300 all-time. He quintupled that the following year, and by 1993, he had already pushed the Wildcats to nine wins and a top-20 finish in the AP poll. Since then, he has only ever had two more losing seasons: four- and five-win campaigns that preceded his brief retirement.

When Snyder stepped down after the 2005 season, athletic director Tim Weiser said: “No matter how successful the next person is, it’s not going to be possible to replace Bill.”

Ron Prince tried for the next three years, to the tune of a 17-20 record. And so, Snyder returned to “soothe the waters.”

Since then, Kansas State has gone 51-25 with a pair of BCS bowl appearances — both losses, but enough for the team to stay in the top 15 at year’s end. Continue reading

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UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks named Walter Camp All-American

Two days after winning the Butkus Award, UCLA’s Eric Kendricks has also become an All-American.

The senior linebacker made the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s second team on Thursday. Despite already winning the preeminent honor at his position, he fell behind three others that made the first team — two of whom he has seen on the opposite sideline: Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha, Arizona’s Scooby Wright, and TCU’s Paul Dawson.

The Walter Camp team is one of five used to determine consensus and unanimous All-American status, although those do require a first-team mention. The other teams are selected by the AFCA, FWAA, Associated Press and Sporting News.

Anthony Barr was a consensus All-American last season, missing out only on the FWAA first team. UCLA’s last unanimous All-American was Maurice Jones-Drew, who earned his nod as an all-purpose player/kick returner.

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Jim Mora: Quarterback Brett Hundley’s finger is ‘fine’

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is “fine” after injuring his finger in the 31-10 loss to Stanford that ended the Bruins’ regular season.

Hundley injured a finger on his right hand and could not finish the game against the Cardinal. The redshirt junior had an ice pack taped to his hand afterward.

Asked about Hundley, Mora stuck to his favorite answer regarding injuries: “He’s fine.”

Mora also confirmed again that the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2 will be Hundley’s final game before declaring for the NFL draft — something both the quarterback and his teammates had said before. Hundley originally stated in January that his third season with the Bruins would be his last, following his announcement that he was passing on the 2014 NFL draft.

Hundley was named to the All-Pac-12 second team this month, though his inconsistent play this season likely affected his NFL stock.

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Four-star defensive back Colin Samuel commits to UCLA

Long Beach Poly cornerback Colin Samuel committed to UCLA on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014.  (Thomas R. Cordova/Staff)

Long Beach Poly cornerback Colin Samuel committed to UCLA on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. (Thomas R. Cordova/Staff)

UCLA has landed the second defensive back in its 2015 class, as four-star defensive back Colin Samuel announced his commitment to the Bruins on Tuesday afternoon.

The Long Beach Poly corner is a physical tackler who, at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, has the type of size that UCLA’s secondary will lose after senior Anthony Jefferson plays his last game in the Alamo Bowl. Listed at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, Jefferson is the only starter in the Bruins’ defensive backfield taller than 6-feet.

Samuel is rated the No. 34 cornerback in the country by Rivals.com, and No. 46 by Scout.com — which has him as a three-star prospect.

Poly coach Antonio Pierce told the Long Beach Press-Telegram last month that his player had developed a “nasty” streak this season. After blocking two kicks against Servite to open the CIF playoffs, Samuel received offers from Oklahoma, Mississipi State, Michigan, Purdue, and Washington State within three days.

Three-star cornerback Will Lockett is also committed to UCLA.

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UCLA’s Eric Kendricks win Butkus Award for top college linebacker

Eric Kendricks can now officially call himself the best linebacker in college football, even if Pac-12 coaches don’t think so.

After being left off the All-Pac-12 first team last week, UCLA’s all-time leading tackler received the Butkus Award on Tuesday morning — becoming the first Bruin to ever win in the trophy’s 30-year history.

Even former teammate Anthony Barr, a consensus All-American and ninth overall NFL draft pick, settled for a finalist spot behind Alabama’s C.J. Mosley.

In a statement, the Butkus Award selection committee called this year’s race “as close as any (in) the past decade,” and said it included eight write-in candidates. Continue reading

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UCLA to finish season in Alamo Bowl against Kansas State

UCLA’s season will end in the Alamo Bowl against Kansas State.

This isn’t the finale that Bruins’ fans had hoped for even two weeks ago, but a trip to San Antonio is still arguably the program’s best bowl destination since its Rose Bowl berth following the 1998 season.

Since its last postseason appearance in Pasadena, UCLA has played in three Sun Bowls, three Vegas Bowls, three Bay Area bowls of various names, an EagleBank Bowl, and a Holiday Bowl.

A Jan. 2 matchup against No. 11 Kansas State is a much more high-profile event than any of those, with the No. 14 Bruins presumably back in the underdog position that they favor. Both teams are 9-3 and coming off losses, with the Wildcats falling 38-27 to No. 5 Baylor. UCLA’s 31-10 loss to Stanford on Nov. 28 allowed Arizona to win the Pac-12 South, and eventually earn a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Alamo Bowl will kick off at 3:45 p.m. PT at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

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UCLA ranked No. 14 in final playoff rankings, likely in Alamo Bowl

UCLA will likely finish its season on Jan. 2 in the Alamo Bowl.

The Bruins were ranked No. 14 in the final College Football Playoff rankings, but more crucial factor in their postseason destination was what happened to Arizona. The Wildcats were ranked No. 7 heading into the Pac-12 Championship, but took a 51-13 beating from Oregon that threatened to drop it out of the top 10.

However, UofA clung on to No. 10 in the final standings, and earned a spot in the Fiesta Bowl against No. 20 Boise State. The Alamo Bowl has the next pick out of the Pac-12, and is a good bet to pick UCLA — which has head-to-head victories over other potential candidates in Arizona State and USC.

Note: There’s some buzz among USC beat writers that the Trojans could end up in San Antonio. I still think the Alamo Bowl picks UCLA, but if it doesn’t, the Bruins should be a lock for the Holiday Bowl.

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UCLA’s potential bowl gifts include GoPro camera, Fossil watches

Every year, the Sports Business Journal does the tireless work of rounding up a complete list of college football bowl gifts — making it easier for the rest of us to either gawk or laugh. (Helen of Troy hair dryer, anyone? Or maybe a personalized Fathead?)

Here are the prizes for UCLA’s possible bowl destinations:

Alamo Bowl: GoPro Hero4 Silver camera and 32MB memory card; Fossil watch; Oakley Works backpack; Schutt mini helmet; panoramic photo

Holiday Bowl: $445 Best Buy gift card and shopping trip; Fossil watch; cap

Foster Farms Bowl: Gift suite*; Fossil watch

*Suites allow players to select from a list of gifts, up to a predetermined value, and can be one of most popular options.

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Tyler Foreman leaves UCLA, Zach Whitley still on roster

This post originally stated that UCLA had dismissed linebacker Zach Whitley due to a team issue.

Safety/linebacker Tyler Foreman has been granted his release from UCLA and will transfer out, as first reported by Bruin Report Online.

Foreman arrived at UCLA as a four-star safety prospect in 2013, and moved to linebacker after a redshirt year. He only played in two games, and had one tackle.

However, linebacker Zach Whitley is still on the roster, a UCLA spokesperson said Friday afternoon. Originally an Alabama commitment, Whitley lived up to his four-star billing immediately in spring camp, looking like a player who would earn a spot in the defensive two-deep. Although the staff unsuccessfully tried him at outside linebacker, Whitley showed natural instincts playing behind the ball.

However, that promise never translated during his debut season. After suffering a concussion and missing part of preseason training camp in San Bernardino, Whitley only played in nine games and recorded a single tackle.

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Eric Kendricks named one of four Lott IMPACT Trophy finalists

UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks celebrates an interception with his teammates during the Bruins' 38-20 win over USC on Nov. 22, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks celebrates an interception with his teammates during the Bruins’ 38-20 win over USC on Nov. 22, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks had to settle for All-Pac-12 second team last night, but today he became a finalist for a second major national award.

The Bruins’ all-time leading tackler is one of four candidates left for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, given each year to a top defensive player for both his on- and off-field contributions. He is joined by Washington linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha, Duke linebacker David Helton and Alabama safety Landon Collins.

Former UCLA All-American linebacker Anthony Barr won the Lott IMPACT Trophy last season, which netted a $25,000 donation to the school’s general scholarship fund. Founded in 2004, the award has yet to be granted to multiple players from the same program.

Kendricks is also one of five finalists for the Butkus Award, given to college football’s best linebacker.

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