Gasparilla Bowl Picks: UCF Knights vs. Florida Gators

by | Dec 13, 2021 | cfb

UCF Knights (8-4 SU, 4-8 ATS) vs. Florida Gators (6-6 SU, 3-9 ATS)

Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl Preview

Date/Time: Thursday December 23rd, 2021. 7:00PM (EST)

Where: Raymond James Stadium Tampa, FL

TV: ESPN

Betting Odds:

Point Spread:UCF +7/UF -7 (BetNow - Deposit $100 to $1000 and they’ll match you dollar for dollar with a 100% REAL CASH bonus!)

Total: 56.5

The UCF Knights and Florida Gators will square off for in-state bragging rights when both schools meet on December 23rd in the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Ironically, both UCF and Florida have visited Raymond James Stadium previously this season, stemming from victories over South Florida, who routinely play their home games at the Buccaneers stadium. However, this will be the first meeting between UCF and Florida since 2006, and it will feature the Gators as 7 point favorites on the neutral field in Tampa Bay.

In retrospect, I think many could argue that the Gators fell off the rails during the 2nd half of the season. Florida lost four of their last six games and needed a victory over Florida State in the season finale to become bowl eligible. Before the season-ending victory over the Seminoles, Florida fired Head Coach Dan Mullen following the late-season collapse on the heels of upset losses against South Carolina and Missouri as double-digit favorites. In recent days, the Gators hired Louisiana Head Coach Billy Napier in hopes to resurrect the program, but it will be interim Head Coach Greg Knox that will continue to lead the team for the 2nd straight game when they square off against the Knights in the Gasparilla Bowl!

Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl Preview

The Gasparilla Bowl will mark just the 3rd meeting between UCF and Florida in history. The Gators dominated each of the two prior meetings with a 58-27 victory in 1999 and a 42-0 victory in 2006 during the height of the Gators dominance between the Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer eras. While Florida appears to be in a declining state of the program, many could argue that UCF has made the most noise in recent years with three different 10+ win seasons in the last five years. The Knights closed out the season by winning five of their last six games, and that has lofted hopes that the Knights could give Florida a run for their money for the first time ever. Those circumstances have helped provide a complete sell-out for the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl and should set the stage for an intriguing showdown between these in-state foes.

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UCF Knights vs. Florida Gators Betting Analysis

Without question, Florida will have the size advantage, especially along the offensive front. QB Emory Jones should have the opportunity to keep plays extended in the passing game and possibly have a chance to chew up some yards on the ground primarily due to the offensive line advantage in this game. However, Florida is far from a dominant force in the running game or the passing game. Jones has struggled with consistency with 19 touchdown passes and 13 picks. Meanwhile, Jones leads all rushers with 697 yards on the ground. Therefore, this will not be the most difficult stylistic match-up for the Knights defense, which has a solid defense holding opponents to 17 points or less in five of their last six outings.

If the Knights can find some plays on the offensive side of the football, they will have every opportunity to win this game. The problem is that the Knights have also been very inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball and will have an uphill match-up against the Florida defense. QB Mikey Keene has done a decent job of replacing Dillon Gabriel, who went down with a collarbone injury. Keene is completing 63% passing with 16 touchdowns and six picks. Keene has some talented targets in the likes of receivers Ryan O’Keefe and Brandon Johnson, who have combined for 17 receiving touchdowns this season. However, the biggest concern is that UCF’s offensive line has given up a ton of sacks this year and will have the unfortunate advantage of facing a Florida defensive front that is bigger and faster. Ultimately, I think both offenses will be at a disadvantage in this game, and it may only take a few big plays to decide the outcome.

Jay’s Pick: I would not be surprised to see UCF hang around in this game, but I just can’t trust them with an outright pick. Instead, I believe the under 56.5 is the best play here. Question: When you bet on games, are you laying -110 odds? For 99.9% of you, the answer is YES. Imagine how much money you’d save if you were able to bet on games at -105 instead? Click that link to find out how! It doesn’t cost you anything but 5 minutes to make the switch to a better sportsbook!

BIG AL's NCAA BOWL TOTAL OF THE YEAR (76-52)

Al McMordie Professional Handicapper

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