By Zach Walker
#15 UCF Knights vs #6 Baylor Bears
Wednesday – January 1 – 7:30 PM
University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale
How did they get here?
Central Florida lost only one game, to South Carolina by three points in just the fourth game of the season. They then proceeded to beat everyone in their path, the then unbeaten Louisville Cardinals, the high powered Houston Cougars, and had a top 10 play of the season to win against the Temple Owls. The Knights finished the season in a scrappy, frigid game against the SMU Mustangs 17-13 to earn their first BCS bowl berth. Baylor absolutely steam rolled through the first four games, scoring a little over 70 points per game, then got side-tracked against Kansas State but still won, then drove straight through Iowa State and Kansas before getting to their first real test of their season, a battle against the Sooners in Waco. After a slow start, the Bears absolutely destroyed Oklahoma then torched Texas Tech before losing to Oklahoma State. But finishing against a tough TCU team and against the Longhorns to earn the Bears their first BCS bowl berth as well.
How can they win?
Central Florida Knights
To be honest, the Knights are going to have to be damn-near perfect to beat a high powered team like Baylor. Get great averages on the ground with running back Storm Johnson; pick up tough third downs by running the ball up the gut. Blake Bortles has picked up a ton draft buzz about him over the season, looking now, he’s usually the second or third quarterback taken in the first round, and there is plenty to like about Bortles. He has great NFL size, good poise, and a high completion percentage. But against Baylor, he is going to have to be on point, because Baylor can play some good defense, they held Oklahoma to less than 250 total yards and forced two interceptions. If he performs like he can perform, he might boost in draft ranking even more.
Like I stated, this game is Baylor’s to lose. Central Florida can score points, but not many score points like Baylor can, only dipping under 40 points three times this season. Bryce Petty has been almost perfect this season, throwing 30 touchdowns to just two interceptions, and he ran in 11 more scores. Lache Seastruck is a star, with a 7.5 yards per carry average and 11 touchdowns, and at 5’10” 210 pounds, he isn’t a guarantee tackle, you have to wrap him up. Running back Shock Linwood did a great job of stepping in while Seastruck was banged up, having a pair of 180 yard games back to back. And Antwan Goodley saw his targets increase when Tevin Reese went down with an injury, and had a monster season, averaging 19.7 yards per catch, 13 touchdowns, and 1319 yards. The Bears can score as often as they’d like to, but if this game is kept close by UCF, there could be trouble for the Bears.
Prediction: I don’t want to pick the Bears, because it just seems too obvious, but I’m going to. Central Florida 24 – Baylor 34.