Where: Chase Field, Phoenix
STORYLINES 1. UCLA interim coach Jedd Fisch will try to send he and the Bruins out a winner when they face Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl on Dec. 26 at Chase Field in Phoenix. UCLA hired Chip Kelly on Nov. 25, six days after Jim Mora was fired following a 28-23 loss to crosstown rival USC, but Kelly won’t officially take over until this season’s over. Fisch guided UCLA to a 30-27 victory against California in the final regular-season game on Nov. 24, making the Bruins bowl-eligible after they missed out on the postseason a year ago.
2. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen finished the regular season 10th in the FBS in passing yards with 3,717, but the junior has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons and twice was unable to finish a game this fall. He was replaced against California after getting sacked three times in the first half, but he has since returned to practice and appears ready to go against Kansas State, which has the second-worst pass defense in the FBS at 310.3 passing yards surrendered per game. Rosen’s other postseason appearance came in the Foster Farms Bowl two years ago, when the Bruins were defeated by five-win Nebraska 37-29 in Santa Clara, Calif.
3. Kansas State ended the regular season on a high note Nov. 25, defeating Iowa State 20-19 on a last-second touchdown pass which came a week after the Wildcats toppled then-No. 13 Oklahoma State 45-40 as 19 1/2-point underdogs. Kansas State met UCLA in the Alamo Bowl on January 2, 2015, and the 40-35 victory by the Bruins was somewhat overshadowed when Mora pulled his hand away from Kansas State coach Bill Snyder during their postgame handshake because he didn’t like the way the Wildcats remained physical as the Bruins tried to run out the clock. Mora won’t get that opportunity again, but the 78-year-old Snyder is still winning games for Kansas State.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Kansas State -2
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (7-5, 5-4 Big 12): The Wildcats are on their third quarterback this season, but they might be playing their best football behind freshman Skylar Thompson, who only threw two passes the first seven games but is a combined 25-for-34 passing in the past two games with four touchdown throws and no interceptions. Jesse Ertz started the first five games before he sustained a season-ending knee injury, and Alex Delton started the next four before he was sidelined with a concussion. Thompson has a nice choice of receivers in deep-threat Byron Pringle, who is averaging 25.2 yards on his 28 receptions, or Isaiah Zuber, who has caught a team-high 51 passes for 510 yards and four touchdowns.
ABOUT UCLA (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12): The receiving corps for the Bruins took a couple major hits when leading receiver Darren Andrews sustained a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 3 against Utah, a month after sure-handed tight end Caleb Wilson was lost for the season with a foot injury. Rosen still has a great option in junior wide receiver Jordan Lasley, who’s coming off back-to-back 200-yard receiving efforts while significantly improving his NFL Draft stock. The challenge for Rosen will be finding other receivers, as Lasley is sure to draw consistent double coverage, even against Kansas State’s weak pass defense.