No. 15 Central Florida Knights (11-1 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. No. 6 Baylor Bears (11-1 SU, 9-3 ATS)
College Football Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Date and Time: Wednesday January 1st, 2014. 8:30PM Eastern
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium Glendale, A.Z.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UCF +16.5/Bay -16.5
Over/Under Total: 68.5
The 2014 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will feature a rather improbable pairing
when the no. 15 UCF Knights meet the no. 6 Baylor Bears
in Glendale, Arizona. Neither team was ranked in the preseason top 25 which
goes to show just how much preseason rankings truly mean. Still, the Knights
and Bears overcame expectations this season with equally impressive 11-1
SU records. UCF’s breakout season featured an Athletic American Conference
Championship that was marked by the Knights’ 2nd 11 win season in school
history. Coach George O’Leary’s’ Knights could set a school record on New
Year’s Day by capturing their 12th victory over Baylor which would be a
perfect ending to an already impressive 2013 campaign.
However the Knights will be rather large underdogs when they visit University of Phoenix Stadium. Baylor is currently listed as 16.5 point favorites at most betting shops after a season that was highlighted by one of the greatest offensive teams in college football history. Coach Art Briles has become one of the hottest coaching names in the country as a result. Before Briles arrival in Waco, Baylor had never had a winning record in the Big 12. This year’s Baylor squad won their first Big 12 Championship, captured a school record 11 wins for the first time, and also on the verge of breaking a 32 year old NCAA record for total offense in a season.
The 2013 Bears dominated the nation in total points (53.3) and total yards (624.5) per game. Quarterback Bryce Petty posted Heisman Trophy type numbers with 3,844 yards, 30 touchdowns, and just 2 interceptions. The entire Bears offense is loaded with speed that makes them difficult to defend in the open field which is why Brile’s up tempo spread offense has been so successful. Receivers Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese have combined for more than 2,200 yards and 21 touchdowns. While running back Lache Seastrunk has added an additional 1,060 yards and 11 scores on the ground just to prove there is a slight bit of balance to Baylor’s pass happy winning formula.
The only team to hold Baylor under 30 points this season was a top 10 ranked Oklahoma State team that finished the year 10-2 SU. The 10th ranked Cowboys at the time were able to capitalize off several turnovers in a surprising 49-17 blowout. Baylor still posted 453 total yards in that game despite being held to just 17 points. However at the end of the day, turnovers and three failed 4th down conversions led to the Bears demise. Still it could be argued that Baylor did not necessarily get beat by the Oklahoma State’s defense but rather self imploded.
The big question heading into the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is if George O’Leary’s 15th ranked UCF Knights can match the speed of the Baylor offense and find a way to keep Baylor’s scoring at a minimum. The Knights defense gave up just 19.6 points per game this season which was the 13th best average in the FBS. Obviously UCF has not faced a team with the amount of offensive speed and quickness as Baylor. Therefore it remains to be determined if that speed will be too much to overcome for the Knights’ defense.
Offensively the Knights have a lot of under rated talent. Quarterback Blake Bortles has completed 68% passing for 3,280 yards with 22 touchdowns and 7 picks. Running back Storm Johnson is an all-purpose back that has rushed for 1,015 yards and captured 14 total touchdowns. The Knights offense has been rather impressive at times this season. The Knights posted 38 points against Charlie Strong’s top rated defense in the 38-35 upset over no. 8 Louisville and also nearly came away with an upset over South Carolina earlier in the year. Therefore surely UCF expects to contend in this game, but odds makers apparently tend to think Baylor’s speed will be the difference in this ball game given the large point spread.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: There will be two outstanding coaches on both sidelines in this year’s Fiesta Bowl and I am certain both (Briles and O’Leary) will have solid game plans. I really believe UCF will contend strongly in this game but a little gun shy to pull the trigger on the 16.5 points given Baylor’s explosive offense. However, I do believe the scoring stays down as both defenses will be well prepared. I believe the best bet will be the under 68.5, good luck!
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