University of Phoenix Stadium will play host to Baylor and UCF on New Year's Day in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and each team will be making its first-ever appearance in a BCS bowl game.
Baylor (No. 6) and UCF (No. 15) boast strong offensive attacks that have helped them take down top teams during the 2013 college football season. Baylor defeated Oklahoma and Texas, while UCF was successful in winning against Penn State and Louisville.
UCF enters play having not lost since Sept. 28 against the South Carolina Gamecocks. In their only loss of the season, the Knights scored just 25 points and were stifled late by the South Carolina defense.
Oklahoma State handed Baylor its lone loss on the season. It was a 49-17 thrashing on Nov. 23, and it resulted in a critical drop in the BCS rankings for the Bears. Had they not lost to Oklahoma State, the Bears might have been playing in the BCS title game.
You're not going to want to miss this. These teams boast talented NFL prospects, which will make the game that much more interesting. Here is the information that is crucial to your viewing experience, including betting lines and keys to the game that will help keep you as informed as possible leading up to the action.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 1, at 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Betting Lines: (via Covers)
- Over/Under: 69.5 points
- Spread: Baylor (-16.5)
Team Injury Reports (via USA Today)
|Tevin Reese||WR||Probable (Wrist)|
|Bryce Hager||LB||Questionable (Groin)|
|Tuswani Copeland||CB||Out (Achilles)|
|Spencer Drango||OL||Out (Back)|
|Seyvon Lowry||DL||Questionable (Leg)|
|Deion Green||DL||Out (Knee)|
|Willie Mitchell||LB||Out (Suspension)|
Can the UCF Defense Slow Down Baylor's No. 1 Offense?
Baylor has plenty of offensive weapons, and it will be extremely difficult for UCF to limit them. Quarterback Bryce Petty has so much versatile talent surrounding him that he can be off his game and still succeed against the Knights' No. 12-ranked defense.
ESPN.com's David M. Hale doesn't think that we should be underestimating that defense, though:
They may be largely anonymous on a national stage, but the Knights have been solid defensively all season. UCF ranks 12th nationally in scoring defense, allowing less than 20 points per game, despite having just two seniors on its two-deep. It's an athletic group that plays sound fundamentally, and if the rest of the world is overlooking the unit, Baylor isn't.
Baylor's Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese combined for more 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns in the receiving game this season. Goodley posted more than 30 more receptions, but Reese was a big-play candidate every time he stretched the defense. He'll be the key to the vertical passing game.
If UCF's secondary is able to give Petty different looks, then Petty will be forced to go through his progressions and hit the open receivers. When UCF couples that with creative blitz packages, Petty will find himself under pressure early and often.
That's when he'll have to turn to Lache Seastrunk and Shock Linwood. The two running backs totaled more than 1,900 yards on the ground this season and found the end zone 19 times. They'll be important not only to keeping the chains moving but also to keeping the defense in check.
The play-action pass will be crucial to defeating the UCF defense. If Petty can get that working for his offense, then Baylor should be able to put up 40-plus points.
"We're not just scrubby little Baylor anymore," Petty told Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel.
After defeating Texas in the Big 12 title game, Baylor made a name for itself as a top BCS team looking to win its first-ever BCS bowl game. UCF is in the same boat, but Baylor is the far superior team.
Which team comes out on top?
Not to discredit the Knights in any way—they've had a spectacular season—but Baylor is too strong offensively to lose against UCF.
Both Petty and UCF quarterback Blake Bortles will use this as an audition for the NFL draft in May, as each signal-caller ranks in that second tier of quarterbacks behind Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr. With each looking to raise his draft stock, we should be in for some solid football.
I predict Baylor will win, but not because of UCF mistakes. This will simply come down to which offense puts up the most points. With that being the case, it's hard to pick against the No. 1 offense in college football.
Final Score: Baylor 42, UCF 30