In what will be the first BCS bowl game for both teams, the Big 12 champion Baylor Bears are set to face the American Athletic Conference champion Central Florida Knights in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day.
Baylor sealed an automatic berth into the Fiesta Bowl with a dominating 30-10 win over the Texas Longhorns, while the Knights completed their run of the table in conference play with a 17-13 victory over SMU.
Of course, the Bears have one of the most prolific offenses in recent memory, averaging over 53 points per game. Meanwhile, UCF has routinely held teams under 20 points, allowing more than 30 points just three times this season.
Time: 8:30 p.m. EST, Jan. 1
Place: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Radio: ESPN Radio
Put pressure on UCF QB Blake Bortles
Bortles has quietly become one of the country's best quarterbacks. He's racked up 3,280 yards and 22 touchdowns through the air and has been the leader for this upstart squad.
However, sacks have become problematic for the Knights. After Bortles was sacked just four times through October, he took 13 sacks in November, where the Knights only won one game by double digits for the month.
Baylor is second in the Big 12 in team sacks with 32 this season, so the Bears will surely look to turn the heat up on Bortles.
Don't take your foot off the gas pedal if you take the lead
The Bears cannot fall asleep against the Knights should they take a lead. The Louisville Cardinals found that out the hard way.
Teddy Bridgewater and Co. had a 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter before giving up 24 unanswered points to the Cardinals. Louisville ended up losing the game, 38-35, but it opened the door for UCF to earn its BCS berth.
Baylor can't go into cruise control against the Knights because they could sneak up on the Bears. Bryce Petty and the nation's best offense needs to keep up the pressure in order to win this game.
Baylor ranks second in the Big 12 in turnover margin at plus-11. It's a lot to ask of UCF to force the Bears to cough up the ball, but that is what the Knights' defense will have to do in order to have a shot at winning this game.
In the Bears' lone loss of the year, they coughed up the ball three times to Oklahoma State.
UCF has to create its own opportunities to stop Baylor's offense, and takeaways are the best way to do it.
Dominate time of possession
There's one simple way to limit the damage that Baylor's offense can do, and that's to keep it off the field altogether.
UCF ranks 25th in the nation in average time of possession at 31:58. Baylor ranks 106th at 27:41. That's a definite advantage for the Knights over the Bears, but Bortles and the offense have to use their advantage in the right way. If he can't covert long drives into points, UCF won't be able to keep up with Baylor and this game will get away from the Knights.
Bryce Petty, QB
Once thought to be one of the leading contenders for this year's Heisman Trophy, Petty has still been the heart and soul of the country's best offense.
The Bears gunslinger is seventh in the FBS in passing yards (3,844) and ninth in passing touchdowns (30).
What's even more exciting about Petty, from a fan's perspective, is that he is reportedly returning next season for his senior year. That should set the stage for Baylor to make a run at back-to-back Big 12 titles.
Lache Seastrunk, RB
One of the best personalities in all of college football, this guy predicted at the beginning of the season that the Bears would win the Big 12 title. Well, he was right, and he's a big reason why.
Seastrunk has totaled 1,060 yards on the ground, 11 touchdowns and averaged over seven yards a touch—all despite the fact that he missed two games with an injury.
Seastrunk is, hands down, one of the most electrifying backs in college football. Probably the only reason his numbers aren't better is the fact that he's surrounded by too much talent to stand out at times.
Antwan Goodley, WR
When you're Petty's No. 1 target, your numbers are bound to leap off the page, and Goodley's 1,319 receiving yards and 13 touchdown catches surely do.
Goodley is a one of the top receivers in the game. He has great hands and the speed to burn nearly any defender, as he's averaging 19.7 yards per reception.
Blake Bortles, QB
Nobody had heard of Blake Bortles at the start of the 2013 season, mainly because the American Athletic Conference title had seemingly been handed to Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville in the preseason.
But now Bortles has put the entire country on notice that he is one of the nation's best signal-callers. He ranks in the top 20 in passing yards, completion percentage and quarterback rating.
Bortles has been the catalyst for this team all year, and he'll be needed if the Knights want to have a chance at winning a shootout with Baylor.
The Fiesta Bowl could also be UCF fans' last chance to see Bortles play, as his draft stock has been rapidly rising this year. ESPN.com has him ranked as a first-round pick and the second quarterback taken behind Bridgewater.
Storm Johnson, RB
Johnson has been Bortles' complement on offense this year, racking up 1,015 yards on the ground with 14 touchdowns.
The Georgia native has four games of more than 100 yards rushing and is also averaging over five yards per carry.
UCF's offense isn't designed to look flashy or even put up a lot of points, ranking just 41st in scoring in the nation, but the Knights will wear you down over the course of a game, and Johnson is a blue-collar back that often sets the tone for this squad.
Baylor head coach Art Briles, on his team's celebration after beating Texas and earning a bid to the Fiesta Bowl, per Baylor's Twitter account:
"We're so proud to represent Baylor University at that bowl game. There were some Tostitos thrown around the locker room."
Baylor QB Bryce Petty on the team's long-term goal of winning the Big 12, per USA Today:
"That's what hit me," quarterback Bryce Petty said. "This is where it is, this is where that vision was."
UCF head coach George O'Leary on what earning a trip to a BCS bowl means for the Knights fans, per UCF's website:
"It's a great win for the fanbase and everybody, especially the ones who have been with us so long and waiting for something like this. They have the champions now and a BCS Bowl team."
Offensive lineman Torrian Wilson on being underdogs throughout the season, per UCF's website:
“Coming into the conference we were always the underdogs. That just drove us to work hard every day. We do what we can do every day as a team and today proved it.”
ESPN analyst and former NFL QB Brian Griese on Blake Bortles' NFL prospects, per the Orlando Sentinel:
"Blake Bortles reminds me a lot of a young Brett Favre," Griese said during ESPN's broadcast of UCF's game at SMU. "He's very mobile, very athletic. He has grown in the system ... He has all the tools to be an outstanding quarterback."
Many people may look at Baylor's high-octane offense and think that UCF has no chance of even competing with the likes of the Big 12 champions.
While that may actually prove true, UCF is a nitty-gritty team that has already proven that it can hang with the best of the best. After upending Louisville early in the season, the Knights barely lost to South Carolina, 28-25.
However, the Knights simply don't have the offensive firepower to beat the Bears. This game will be closer than many think, but Baylor will still walk away as the Fiesta Bowl champion.
Final Score: Baylor 45, UCF 28