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December 26, 2006

Emerald Bowl: UCLA vs. Florida State

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Head-to-Head Breakdown

The UCLA and Florida State benches will have a mere 10-yard buffer zone separating them during the Emerald Bowl.

Because of the layout of AT&T Park - the home of the San Francisco Giants - the Bruins and Seminoles will have to stand on the same sideline (in what would be center field and right field). The opposite sideline is home to prime seating that would otherwise be blocked by a football team.

But 10 yards could be 10 miles given the final weeks of the season.

UCLA capped a 7-5 season with a 13-9 upset of rival USC for the Bruins' first win in the series since 1998. Florida State ended a 6-6 season with a 21-14 loss to rival Florida, giving the Gators three wins in a row over the Seminoles.

Bruins defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker became a head coaching target after turning around a woeful UCLA defense. Seminoles offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden resigned after six seasons as the whipping boy of FSU fans.

An Emerald Bowl victory would give UCLA a four-game winning streak to end the season. A loss would give Florida State its first losing season since 1976, Bobby Bowden's first year in Tallahassee.

Emerald Bowl: UCLA (7-5) vs. Florida State (6-6)
When: Dec. 27, 8 p.m.
Where: AT&T Park, San Francisco
TV info: ESPN, Dan Fouts, Tim Brant, Jack Arute
UCLA Bruins
Conference: Pac-10
Record: 7-5, 5-4
Coach: Karl Dorrell (29-20 in four seasons at UCLA)
Passing leader: Patrick Cowan (130 of 240, 1,542 yards, nine TDs, seven INTs)
Rushing leaders: Chris Markey (208 carries, 963 yards, two TDs)
Receiving leaders:Marcus Everett (29 receptions, 403 yards, five TDs)
Defensive leaders: Justin Hickman (40 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 12.5 sacks)
Florida State Seminoles
Conference: ACC
Record: 6-6, 3-5
Coach: Bobby Bowden (292-81-4 in 31 seasons at Florida State)
Passing leader: Drew Weatherford (156 of 275, 1,829 yards, 11 TDs, 10 INTs)
Rushing leader: Lorenzo Booker (121 carries, 525 yards, two TDs)
Receiving leaders: Chris Davis (46 receptions, 651 yards, four TDs)
Defensive leaders: Buster Davis (102 tackles, seven TFL, five sacks, two forced fumbles, INT)
UCLA running game vs. Florida State run defense: Florida State ranks eighth in the country in rush defense, allowing only 84.1 yards. Defensive tackle Andre Fluellen and linebackers Buster Davis and Lawrence Timmons led the way for FSU. The UCLA rushing attack hasn't been as strong without Maurice Jones-Drew. Chris Markey hit the 100-yard mark only once in the last nine games of the season.
Edge: Florida State.
UCLA passing game vs. Florida State pass defense: Patrick Cowan offered perhaps his best game of the year against USC, rushing for a career-high 55 yards and a touchdown while completing 12 of 21 passes for 114 yards. Florida State struggled against the pass at times this year, but should be able to handle a UCLA team without a go-to receiver. Markey leads the team in receptions with 33.
Edge: Florida State.
Florida State running game vs. UCLA run defense: The Seminoles run game has been woeful most of the year. It doesn't look to get any better in the bowl game with backup tailback Antone Smith and fullback Joe Surratt likely out with injuries. The load will fall on the shoulders of senior Lorenzo Booker, who ran for 525 yards and two touchdowns this year. Under DeWayne Walker, the Bruins are allowing fewer than 90 rushing yards per game and held USC to 85 on Dec. 2.
Edge: UCLA.
Florida State passing game vs. UCLA pass defense: The Seminoles' passing game has struggled nearly as much as the running game. Bobby Bowden has named Drew Weatherford the starting quarterback for this game, but don't be surprised if you see Xavier Lee. The two combined to complete just 44.7 percent of their passes with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. FSU's passing game won't stand a chance if defensive ends Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis (25 sacks, 35 TFL combined) are able to run wild in the Seminoles' backfield.
Edge: UCLA.
UCLA coaches vs. Florida State coaches: One assistant, defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, is coming off a career day - dismantling the USC offense for its worst scoring output since 2001. Another assistant, FSU offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden, resigned after a season in which FSU was shut out for the first time since 1988. Bobby Bowden is 19-9-1 in bowl games but Karl Dorrell (1-2 in bowl games) could be in position for his second consecutive bowl win.
Edge: UCLA.
UCLA will win if: Cowan and Markey can consistently move the ball and limit mistakes. Because of the Bruins' defense, UCLA's offense doesn't need to score a lot of points. The Bruins ground game will hope to keep the ball away from FSU.
Florida State will win if: Hickman and Davis are neutralized. The two defensive ends have keyed UCLA's defensive turnaround. FSU needs to keep them away from the quarterback and Booker. If Weatherford - or Lee - has time to throw, he could do damage against the UCLA secondary.
Injury situation: Florida State running back Antone Smith missed the last game of the season with a dislocated right elbow. He is not likely to play against UCLA. FSU fullback Joe Surratt (right shoulder) and defensive back Mikhal Kornegay (right knee) will not play after having surgeries in December. UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan did not participate in the Bruins' first bowl practice because of a concussion sustained against USC. Running back Kahlil Bell (suspension) will not play.
Worth noting: UCLA will start Cowan at quarterback despite having a healthy Ben Olson available. Florida State has not played a December bowl game since 1990. The Emerald Bowl will be the final game for oft-criticized Florida State offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden. Florida State is playing in a bowl for the 25th consecutive season. The Seminoles haven't played on the West Coast since a 14-7 win over USC in 1997.
Line: UCLA by 4
Fox's pick: UCLA 21, Florida State 17.
Other Rivals.com Expert picks:
Olin Buchanan, national college football writer: UCLA 27, Florida State 13.
Bobby Burton, editor-in-chief: UCLA 24, Florida State 17.
Steve Megargee, national college football writer: UCLA 24, Florida State 17.
Bill King, RivalsRadio host: Florida State 27, UCLA 17.
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