Fiesta Bowl Matchup: UCF Knights vs. Baylor Bears
Date/Time: January 1st, 8:30 ET
Point Spread: Baylor -16.5
The UCF Knights and the Baylor Bears are both playing in the BCS for the first time in school history. They’ll take each other on as the champs of their respective conferences when they meet in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s night.
The Knights had their best year in school history, and it wasn’t even all that close. The team was a collapse against the South Carolina Gamecocks away from running the table, and though the end result probably would have been a trip to the Fiesta Bowl anyway, it at least would have been a much more compelling case for the AAC to be a respected conference. We’ve seen a mixed bag out of the AAC at this point (as of the typing of this article on December 29th), as the Cincinnati Bearcats looked terrible, but the Louisville Cardinals, the signature win of the season for UCF, looked awesome. The Knights are led by QB Blake Bortles who, by all accounts, is turning himself into a first round NFL Draft pick and perhaps the most notable football player in program history. He threw for 3,280 yards and 22 TDs this season, and he rushed for five more TDs to boot. UCF had three receivers with at least 650 yards this year, including WR Breshad Perriman, who averaged 21.2 yards per catch. RB Storm Johnson had 11 rushing touchdowns and is the leader of a solid rushing attack.
The numbers offensively for Baylor will definitely stand out off of the page. QB Bryce Petty had 30 TDs through the air against just two INTs, and he had 11 rushing touchdowns. RB Lache Seastrunk, who again, could be a first round pick in the NFL Draft this year, rumbled for 1,060 yards and 11 TDs, while RB Shock Linwood, RB Glasco Martin, and RB Devin Chafin combined for another 1,500+ yards and 18 scores between them. WR Tevin Reese and WR Antwan Goodley combined for 101 catches for 2,153 yards and 21 TDs between them. Baylor had the only offense in America to average over 50 points per game this year (53.2 PPG), and it had the only offense to average more than 600 yards (625.6 YPG). The team ranked in the Top 15 in America both in rushing and in passing, but what you didn’t see was the fact that this was also a Top 20 defense in terms of total yardage (344.1 YPGA) and scoring defense (21.2 PPG).
There isn’t a lot of bowl history here for either of these teams, as their respective head coaches, George O’Leary and Art Briles have both done a remarkable job with these fledgling programs. UCF is only 2-3 all-time in bowl games, but it is 4-1 ATS to show for its work in those games dating back to 2005. Baylor’s bowl history does go back to 1948, but the team has only played in 19 bowl games since that point. Most recently, the Bears put up 67 and 49 points in bowl games against the Washington Huskies and UCLA Bruins, both of which ended up being big time wins.
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.