Fiesta Bowl 2014: Preview and Prediction for UCF vs. Baylor

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Fiesta Bowl 2014: Preview and Prediction for UCF vs. Baylor
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The No. 15-ranked UCF Knights are not only trying to win a BCS bowl game, the school is also trying to score a victory for the American Athletic Conference. Formerly known as the Big East, the conference has undergone massive reconstruction and doesn't boast the same top-tier programs as it once did.

If UCF can stick it to the No. 6-ranked Baylor Bears in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl, it will earn its league some respect.

This game will pit two of the nation's best quarterbacks against each other. Knights junior Blake Bortles has been fantastic this season. He's thrown for 3,280 yards, 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller has Bortles going third to the Jacksonville Jaguars in his latest mock draft.

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If Baylor's Bryce Petty was coming out, this could be a battle of two of the most highly touted prospects in the 2014 draft. Bortles hasn't officially said he's coming out early, but the consensus belief is that he will bolt.

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Petty has already committed to returning to Waco, Texas, for his senior season. NFL scouts will have another year to salivate over his talent. In 2013, Petty threw for 3,844 yards, 30 touchdowns and just two interceptions. 

Needless to say, fans should expect high-caliber QB play in this one. Here's how you can watch the action as well as the betting information.

 

When: Wednesday, Jan. 1, at 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

Watch: ABC

Live Stream: Watch ESPN

Betting Lines: (via Covers)

  • Over/Under: 69.5 points
  • Spread: Baylor (-16.5)

 

What UCF Must Do to Pull Upset

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Without a doubt, the Knights can't win a shootout with the Bears. UCF doesn't have the necessary weapons at skill positions to compete with a Baylor offense that averaged a nation's best 53.3 points per game.

Pulling this major upset starts with defense. Asking the Knights to shut down Baylor is unrealistic. The Bears were held under 30 points just one time this season.

That came against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Bears' only loss. 

The key in that game was takeaways. Baylor fumbled three times inside the Cowboys' territory—twice inside their 5-yard line. Oklahoma State turned those miscues into 14 points, and Baylor never really got on track.

The Bears are a rhythm team on offense. If UCF is to have any shot, they must disturb that flow early with turnovers and big plays defensively.

 

What Baylor Must Do to Prove It Deserved to Be the Favorite

The biggest mistake Baylor could make in this game would be to take its opponent lightly. The winning percentage of the teams UCF has beaten this season is only .401. Still, Art Briles' team has to know the Knights will show up ready to compete and with a chip on their shoulders.

Baylor can't afford to get off to a slow start.

The Bears must match the Knights' intensity from the beginning and remind them they are out of their league—literally and figuratively. 

 

Prediction

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Baylor will win this game in grand fashion. The Knights don't have the overall team speed to curtail the Bears.

Too much speed on the outside and not enough pass rush from UCF will lead to a lopsided win for the Bears.

Baylor wins it and covers the spread.

 

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