TEAMS: 15 UCF (11-1, 8-0 American) vs. 6 Baylor (11-1, 8-1 Big 12)
TIME: January 1st, 8:30 p.m. EST
The 2014 Fiesta Bowl features two teams who have never appeared in a BCS Bowl. While Baylor isn’t much of a surprise, as the Bears have found recent success the past few years, UCF is the surprising team. The Knights earned the automatic bid by winning the American Conference in its first year of existence.
Central Florida surprised a lot of people this season, losing just one game. That loss came against South Carolina when the Gamecocks were ranked 12th in the country. In a back-and-forth game, the Knights were ultimately defeated 28-25. UCF began to gain national attention after beating Penn State on the road in the third game of the season.
The Knights are led on offense by talented quarterback Blake Bortles. This year, he passed for 3,280 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also rushed for five touchdowns. Bortles still has another year in college, but there’s been talk that he could decide to enter the upcoming NFL Draft after this season concludes.
Bortles has several targets to throw to. Rannell Hall, Breshad Perriman, Jeff Godfrey and J.J. Worton all played a part in helping the Knights become the nation’s 26th-best passing offense. When the Knights are not slinging the ball all over the field, running back Storm Johnson takes over. The junior back rushed for 1,015 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He also added three touchdown receptions.
Aside from having a talented offense, Central Florida enters the game with a defense that ranked 12th in the country, allowing just 19.6 points a game.
The Baylor Bears come into this game with just one loss, a heartbreaking 49-17 defeat to No. 10 Oklahoma State that ended their National Championship hopes. Still, they battled back and won the Big 12 Conference. Baylor boasts the nation’s top offense and has put up video game-like numbers all season, blowing out several opponents and averaging over 53 points a game.
That dangerous offense is led by quarterback Bryce Petty. The junior signal-caller put up 3,844 passing yards and threw for 30 touchdowns. Petty also showed the ability to make plays with his legs, tying for the team lead with 11 rushing touchdowns. Petty has a variety of targets to throw to, led by Antwan Goodley, who put up 1,319 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Fellow receivers Tevin Reese and Levi Norwood combined for 15 touchdowns and helped lead the Bears to the fifth-best passing offense in the country.
What makes Baylor so tough is the fact that if defenses focus on stopping the pass, the Bears can beat you on the ground with the 12th-ranked rushing offense in the country. Running back Lache Seastrunk led the way rushing for 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns. Shock Linwood added 862 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
This game should be a dream matchup for any fan who loves a lot of offense. Both teams should have their offensive firepower on display, making for an exciting, high-scoring affair. I feel bad for anyone trying to play defense in this one. Baylor’s top-ranked offense should win out, but look for a spirited effort from the up-start Knights.
UCF 30 Baylor 45
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