I wouldn't have been surprised if the UCLA Bruins were singing "Anchors Aweigh!" late Saturday afternoon, because...
Due to the Navy Midshipmen's 17-3 victory over Army in their annual rivalry game, UCLA will play in a post season bowl for the first time in the Rick Neuheisel era.
On December 29, the Bruins will play in the Eagle Bank Bowl at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Their opponent will be the Temple Owls, mostly known for being the alma mater of Bill Cosby, who are in their first bowl game in 30 years and only their third bowl overall.
After suffering through a 4-8 record in Neuheisel's first season, and getting humiliated by USC's last minute touchdown pass in their last outing, UCLA is very happy to be invited to the post season; this confirms the progress that the Bruins (6-6) have made this year.
Led by coach Al Golden, 9-3 Temple will not be an easy challenge as they are ranked 23rd nationally in rushing, led by Bernard Pierce's 1,308 yards, which puts him at No. 11 in the NCAA.
With UCLA giving up at least 150 yards on the ground in seven of their games, that is definitely a concern.
The two weeks of practice, however, will benefit the Bruins as they go forward. It also serves as a golden opportunity for the players, notably seniors such as Reggie Carter and Alterraun Verner, to redeem themselves from the USC loss and to end the 2009 season on a high note, not to mention gaining some much needed momentum for 2010 Spring practice as well as for next Fall.
Also helping UCLA is the fact that Temple, being from the Mid American Conference, only played one BCS team this year, a 31-6 loss to Penn State, while the Bruins' only contest outside of a BCS conference was their opener against San Diego State, who they crushed 33-14.
The two team's level of opponents may well be a factor in this game.
As such, I expect UCLA to give a top effort in the nation's capital against this resurgent program from Philadelphia, who will no doubt bring an overwhelming number of their fans to D.C. for the game.
Hopefully that will be good enough for a win.
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