Fiesta Bowl Preview: Baylor vs. UCF
Central Florida (11-1, 8-0 AAC) vs. Baylor (11-1, 8-1 Big 12)
January 1, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
When the Baylor Bears and the Central Florida Knights take the field New Year’s night, all eyes will be on the two quarterbacks. Both Bryce Petty for the Bears and Blake Bortles for the Knights have been absolutely electrifying this year for their respected teams, and there can be no debate that those two are the reason why these teams are in this BCS matchup.
Led by Petty, this Bears offense ranks first in the FBS in both total yards per game (624.5) and averaged points scored (53.3). If it wasn’t for that one terrible performance against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, the Bears could have been playing in Pasadena.
What makes the offense even more terrifying is the fact that it also have a guy named Lache Seastrunk in the backfield. Seastrunk has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this year rushing and is averaging 7.5 yards a carry.
Have I also mentioned that Petty has thrown 30 touchdowns to two interceptions all year? He'll also have wide receiver Tevin Reese, one of his favorite targets back in the lineup after dislocating his wrist. I wouldn’t expect anything less than what the Bears have been doing all year in this matchup.
Bortles and the Knights come into this game winning a few games that were closer than they would have liked. UCF barely squeaked by South Florida at home 23-20 and went on to beat SMU 17-13 toward the latter end of the regular season.
Perhaps this month of preparation is just what the team needed, especially going up against one of the more explosive offensive units in the nation. Much like the Bears' offense, it also has a dynamic back to compliment Bortles. Storm Johnson is also a 1,000-yard rusher and is averaging over five yards a carry. Don’t underestimate the Knights in this one; coach George O’Leary loves the underdog role.
I expect both offenses to play well and have a few wrinkles in the playbook after the month layoff. The key to this game will be which defense makes plays. The advantage has to go to Baylor and its big-play offense. It's played a more demanding schedule, which could give it an advantage in terms of playing on the national stage. Central Florida will need to keep the ball on the ground to give its defense a fighting chance to stop Baylor on offense. But even they can, I don’t believe the Knights have the firepower to hang with the Bears.
Baylor 45, UCF 20