NGSC Sports

Fiesta Bowl: UCF vs Baylor

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

Who: UCF Knights(American) vs Baylor Bears(Big XII)

When: Jan 1, 8:30pm on ESPN

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium. Glendale, Arizona

The Hype

For UCF and Baylor, this is their first time in a BCS bowl game.  Both teams rose from being unranked to ending in the top 15 in the final BCS standings and in the Fiesta Bowl.  Baylor brings in one of the most prolific offenses in FBS history while UCF is a team built on tenacity and clutch play.  This is the final bowl game on New Years Day and is the last game the American Athletic Conference will be auto-qualifiers for.  UCF coach George O’Leary and Baylor coach Art Briles are no strangers to each other.  Briles and O’Leary have played against each other before when Briles was the coach at Houston.  The familiarity in systems should make for a more interesting game.

 

How They Got There
UCF – The road for UCF was paved in a lot of near misses.  A year ago, UCF was still a member of Conference USA, a conference that does not have an automatic spot in the BCS.  UCF was due to join the Big East in 2013, but the conference fell apart and ultimately split between the football schools and the basketball schools.  The American Athletic Conference was born.  UCF opened with only 2 votes in the USA Today poll to open the season, so expectations were low.  The American was viewed as Louisville and a bunch of other schools.  It took UCF some time to generate national buzz, but a Friday night comeback win against Louisville on national television was enough to get UCF noticed.  In week 9, UCF debuted in both polls as well as 23rd in the BCS.  The Knights continued to slowly trickle up despite winning ugly.  The AP poll gave the team a lot more credit compared to the USA Today poll until the final polls were released.  UCF finished 15th in the BCS poll, 15th in the AP poll, and 15th in the USA Today poll, all of which were their highest standings.

Baylor – The local buzz for Baylor stemming from Robert Griffin III hadn’t died down yet when 2013 started.  The national media thought otherwise.  Ranked just outside the top 25 in the preseason polls, the expectations for Baylor was to finish as a middle of the road team in the Big XII.  The Bears came out of the gate strong with four straight wins, scoring no less than 69 points in each game.  The opponents were FCS Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe, and conference mate West Virginia.  It only took one game for the AP to notice Baylor as they cracked the top 25.  It took the coaches an extra week for them to make the top 25 in the USA Today poll.  Baylor kept winning and pushing their ranking up and cracked the top 10 in both polls by week 9 and was ranked 8th in the first BCS ranking.  Baylor peaked at #4 in the BCS in week 13 before stumbling down.  The Bears ended up 6th in the BCS, 6th in the AP poll and 5th in the USA Today poll.

 

Baylor’s Bryce Petty vs UCF’s Blake Bortles

The Numbers
UCF
Blake Bortles: 239-351 3280yds 22td 7int

Storm Johnson: 193att 1015yds 11td
William Stanback: 92att 410yds 6td

Rannell Hall: 53rec 773yds 3td
Breshad Perriman: 36rec 763yds 3td
J.J. Worton: 42rec 665yds 7td

Baylor
Bryce Petty: 220-356 3844yds 30td 2int

Lache Seastrunk: 141att 1060yds 11td
Shock Linwood: 125att 862yds 8td

Antwan Goodley: 67rec 1319yds 13td
Tevin Reese: 33rec 824yds 8td
Levi Norwood: 43rec 670yds 7td

 

Why UCF Might Win
UCF is used to being an underdog.  It wasn’t until this year that UCF played in a BCS conference.  This year, they have been viewed as big underdogs in games against Louisville, Penn State, and South Carolina.  They played each team tough, held each team to less than their season average and ended up winning two of the games with the third being a three point loss.  The defense ranks 19th in the country and has made strong offensive teams very frustrated.  Statistically, UCF is the highest ranked defense Baylor will have played with Oklahoma State just behind them.  UCF seems to play up or down to the level of their competition.  They played up to the power teams, but also played down to the point they needed late scores or stops against a number of weaker opponents, including SMU, Memphis, Temple, and South Florida.  UCF’s style of play involves big plays, but they are more willing to methodically take their time.  With Baylor’s offense striking fast and UCF taking their time, the Baylor defense might tire out as the game progresses.  While the scheme of UCF is far different than Baylor, they have comparable talent that can rise up and cause the upset.

Why Baylor Might Win
Baylor brings a lot of offensive firepower to this game.  This Bears offense is very close to setting a new FBS record for offensive yard per game average.  Right now, they average 624.5 yards per game with the record being 624.9 yards set by Houston in 1989.  They lead the nation in scoring per game at 53.3 points.  Baylor was held under 30 points in only one game and that was their lone loss against Oklahoma State.  The team has cooled down since that loss with a narrow win against TCU and a bad weather win against Texas.  The weather in Glendale is expected to not be an issue, which will allow the Bears to throw the ball often against a young UCF secondary.  Tevin Reese, one of the major playmakers at wide receiver, is practicing again and expected to play alongside Antwan Goodley.  If UCF is able to slow down the passing some, the running game has plenty of weapons with Lache Seastrunk and Shock Linwood.  UCF might have a high ranking defensively, but they have not played against an offense ranked higher than 29th.  Quarterback Bryce Petty has already announced he is staying for his senior season, so the pressure is low.  Being in a power conference, Baylor can easily make a top bowl next year.

 

The Verdict
While Hadiah the tiger picked UCF to win, really no one is giving the Knights the time of day.  The spread is 16.5 points, which actually plays into the Knights’ favor as a team with something to prove.  Baylor is the nation’s most prolific offense and can put points on the board in a hurry.  While this could leave the defense with too little time to rest, the higher the teams score, the more it plays into Baylor’s favor.  UCF is a much better team than they get credit for and will give the Bears fits, but Baylor is just too well balanced to overcome.  Baylor 34 UCF 24

Host of the OT with Andrew G for the Sports Chronicles Radio Network

Host of The College Cram, NFL and NCAA writer on the National Gridiron Network

Contributing writer for Pro Player Insiders

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Ralph Garcia

CEO NGSC Sports


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