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December 29, 2013

Know Your Enemy: UCLA

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Each game, we'll get the inside look at Virginia Tech's opponent by talking with the opposing team's beat writer. For the Hokies' opponent in the Sun Bowl, we spoke with BruinSportsReport.com publisher Edward Lewis to get the inside look at UCLA.

1)What are the differences with Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley this season as compare to last and how key is he to the UCLA offense?

Lewis: There actually hasn't been too much of a change in Hundley's game from this season to last. He did add around 20 pounds, which has made him much, much tougher to bring down. But other than that, he's been just about the same quarterback. He has a power arm and he's one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the country, but he does struggle with pocket presence and pressure.

As for how key he is to this offense, well, he means everything to it. He's the team's leading rusher and thrower, and without him, coach Jim Mora's historic turnaround of UCLA would have probably not happened.

2) Is Anthony Barr the key on defense or is there another big key?

Lewis: Barr is by far this defense's best player. Personally, I think he has a chance to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in May. The combination of his size (6 feet 5, 255 pounds) and speed (a 4.46 40-yard dash) makes him one of the most special prospects in the country.

The other big key to this defense is Myles Jack, who can play any of the four linebacker spots on defense, and eve a little running back for you.

3) We've heard a lot about Jack, but just how important is he on both sides of the ball?

Lewis: He likely won't play running back much in the Sun Bowl because the Bruins' real running backs are all healthy now. He'll get some short yardage and goal line carries, but don't expect to see him back there often.

On defense, he's the second-best player behind Barr. He's a special player in coverage, and he can get after the passer a bit as well. There's a reason he won both the Pac-12's best offensive and defensive freshmen awards this season - he's really good.

4) Is there an area that UCLA feels like it has an advantage over the Hokies?

Lewis: UCLA honestly hasn't spoken much about Virginia Tech this month. The name the Bruins do keep bringing up, however, is the Hokies' quarterback, Logan Thomas. They mention his great abilities, but they also talk about his propensity for turnovers.

I think UCLA believes it can rattle Thomas and force a few picks, fumbles and sacks. Bringing Barr, Jack and Cassius Marsh off the edges and into his face is where UCLA will try to attack Thomas, I'm sure.

5) With the Bruins 4-9 in their last 13 bowl games, is there something they think they can do differently this time?

Lewis: Mora admitted that he didn't prepare right for the bowl game last year against Baylor. He said he spent way too much time preparing his young players for the future, rather than preparing his older players for the game.

This season, he swears he's taken a much different approach. With more focus on the opponent this year, Mora and the Bruins hope things go differently in the Sun Bowl.

FEARLESS PREDICTION: UCLA's offense is high-powered, and it'll be much healthier than it's been all season at the Sun Bowl. I think that firepower will be too much for Virginia Tech to match. I'll give the Bruins the nod here, 33-22.

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