It may not be the most enticing BCS matchup on paper, but the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl tends to deceive and produce one of the most memorable games of the postseason. The 2014 version may bring more of the same.
Among the slew of top-notch bowl games on New Year's Day, the Fiesta Bowl is among the most coveted, as it produces must-see TV on a yearly basis. This year will be its last in the BCS format before becoming a part of the four-team playoff.
With Baylor winning the Big 12 on Saturday thanks to an Oklahoma State loss to Oklahoma, it will likely be the Bears representing the conference in Glendale, Ariz. It's unclear at the moment what the matchup will be, but that will all change on Sunday night when the bowl games are announced.
If this year's event brings us anything close to the spectacle we saw in 2007 that included Boise State beating Oklahoma with a two-point trick play conversion, we'll be in for quite the show.
Here's a look at viewing information and a matchup prediction for the Fiesta Bowl.
Date: Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Start Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Matchup Prediction: Baylor Bears vs. UCF Knights
Baylor's ascendance to the top of the Big 12 shifted from mirage to reality when the Bears topped Oklahoma in early November. Two weeks later, it was put on hold after a beat-down at the hands of Oklahoma State.
But thanks to the Cowboys' slip=up against Oklahoma on Saturday and Baylor taking care of business against Texas, Art Briles and company punched their ticket to the Fiesta Bowl with an outright Big 12 championship.
As Fox Sports' Mike Jurecki (and just about everyone else) noted, Baylor should be playing UCF in the Fiesta:
Of course, UCF doesn't just stroll into an at-large bid. The Knights won the newly founded American Athletic Conference, garnering the last—and perhaps most controversial—automatic bid into the BCS party.
Other than a three-point loss in September to South Carolina, UCF has been perfect on the year. Ever since toppling then-No. 8 Louisville in October, the Knights have been on track to get into a BCS bowl and avoided slipping up against both South Florida and SMU in recent weeks.
Now that there is no Northern Illinois or Fresno State crashing the BCS party, many folks will look to UCF and see the weakest member of the BCS bunch—especially with the likes of Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma or Oregon getting at-large bids. The same may be said for Baylor, who flew under the radar much of the season and has a 32-point loss on its resume.
But any time two ranked teams get together and a BCS victory is on the line, there's no doubt that each team will be playing harder than ever before. Baylor doesn't often get the chance to shine on this big of a stage, and that feeling could only be intensified when talking about UCF.
What to Watch For
There's no doubt that this could end up being quite the enticing matchup with plenty of offense and entertainment.
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty has thrown 30 touchdowns to just two picks on the season, while garnering Heisman Trophy talk before his poor performance against Oklahoma State. UCF's Blake Bortles has amassed nearly 3,300 passing yards on the year.
Bears running back Lache Seastrunk has returned to his effective form after missing two games in November with injury, and he's looking to add on to his 1,000-plus-yard season with a memorable bowl performance. With a tough decision looming to enter the NFL draft or stay for his senior year, Seastrunk will certainly be looking to up his draft stock with a big game.
It may not be guaranteed to be a shootout, but both of these offensive-minded teams will be looking to light up the scoreboard, and that could result in some suspect defense being played.