banner

College Football

more stats

52
Final 1234Score
UCF141471752
Baylor71381442
Preview | Matchup | Log | Wrap | Box
42


(15) UCF (11-1) vs. (6) Baylor (11-1)



Wednesday, January 1, 8:30 p.m. (ET)

SportsNetwork.com

By Mike Castiglione, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: The 15th-ranked UCF Knights and No. 6 Baylor Bears will both compete in their first-ever BCS bowls on New Year's Day when they square off in the 43rd annual Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium.

UCF went undefeated in the American Athletic Conference and finished the regular season with eight straight wins, the longest winning streak in school history. The Knights' lone loss was a 28-25 setback to South Carolina in late September. The Knights, under the guidance of AAC Coach of the Year George O'Leary, are making their fourth postseason appearance in the last five seasons and have won their last two bowl games.

O'Leary recently spoke about how he's been able to turn the program around over the past 10 years since his arrival, from an 0-11 team to this year's 11-1 BCS bowl squad.

"We did what you should do as a coach taking over a program - you build a foundation," O'Leary said. "Each year you put some furniture in the building. The big thing is that we have gotten better each year. We have had our ups and downs, but I think that the consistency of the program and the culture of the program is in place to move forward and to continue to get better each and every year."

Meanwhile, Baylor won its first Big 12 Conference title thanks mostly to an offense that put up video game-like numbers throughout the season. The Bears notched their first-ever 11-win season and are going bowling for the fourth straight year after claiming a 49-26 win over UCLA in last season's Holiday Bowl. A school-record 10 All-Big 12 awards were handed out, including Coach of the Year Art Briles, Player of the Year Bryce Petty and Offensive Lineman of the Year Cyril Richardson.

This will be the first-ever meeting between these two programs.

UCF's offense is led by AAC Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Blake Bortles. The redshirt junior ranks ninth nationally in passing efficiency (163.3) and has been a steadying presence all season long. Bortles has averaged 273 yards per game through the air, while completing 68 percent of his passes and has tossed 22 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. Bortles ran for two TDs in the conference title game at SMU, as the Knights went to their up-tempo, no-huddle "Fastball" offense after a slow start. He has been a big reason why, two years after losing six games by seven points or less, the Knights went 7-1 in such tight games this season. First-Team All-AAC running back Storm Johnson headlines the ground game with 1,015 rushing yards (5.3 ypc) and 11 touchdowns.

The UCF defense held nine of its 12 opponents below their scoring average this season. The Knights rank 13th nationally in scoring defense (19.6 ppg) and 19th in total yards allowed (346.3 ypg). They enter the Fiesta Bowl having held five of their last six foes to 20 points or less and gave up just 13 points against SMU. The Knights boast solid depth on the defensive side of the ball, as 17 different players were credited with a sack this year and six different players recorded multiple interceptions.

Whereas the Knights have the dangerous Bortles under center, the Bears feature a big-time quarterback of their own in Bryce Petty, the engineer of Baylor's top-ranked scoring offense (53.3) and total offense (624.5). The Bears, who scored at least 69 points in five of their first six games, are the only FBS school to average better than 300 passing yards and 250 rushing yards per tilt. They are 14 points away from setting the all-time NCAA record for most points in a 13-game season.

Petty leads the nation with 17.47 yards per completion and is second in passing efficiency (179.2). He also shares the team lead with 11 rushing scores. Big-play senior receiver Tevin Reese paces the country in yards per catch (25.0) and has caught a BCS-era record 21 touchdowns of 40 yards or more, while fellow wideout Antwan Goodley leads the Big 12 in receiving yards per game (109.9) and receiving TDs (13). Goodley's eight 100-yard receiving games this season also tops the nation and is one away from BU's all-time single-season mark. In the backfield, the shifty Lache Seastrunk tops the Big 12 with 106.0 rushing yards per game and is averaging 7.5 yards per carry, which ranks ninth nationally.

Coach O'Leary was asked what he will tell his players about being labeled the underdog against the Bears and their high-powered attack.

"I don't know about that," he said. "Our players will compete. Our players are very excited about the game and are very excited about to get to Arizona and play. They are looking forward to the trip. They understand what we need to get done to go out and compete against a team like Baylor."

While Baylor's offensive prowess is well documented, its defense has gone somewhat unnoticed. Although there have been a few shootouts this season, the unit does rank 17th nationally in total defense (344.0 ypg) and 19th in scoring defense (21.2 ppg allowed). As with virtually any team, takeaways have been a key element to success. The Bears are 24-2 when forcing two or more turnovers over the past three seasons under defensive coordinator Phil Bennett. They allowed just 10 points to Texas in the Big 12 title game and came away with two interceptions of Case McCoy, who completed only 12-of-34 passes. Senior All-American safety Ahmad Dixon leads the way with 5.8 tackles per game to go along with an interception and a forced fumble on the season.

UCF went undefeated on the road (6-0) for the first time in school history. The team simply knows how to grind out wins, as seven of its victories came by seven points or less. Winning this matchup certainly won't be easy against a Baylor team that spent eight straight weeks ranked in the top-10. The head-to- head matchup between quarterbacks Bortles and Petty alone figures to be worth the price of admission.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Baylor 45, UCF 31

12/29 14:35:04 ET

Other Stories

  • SEC: Florida at Alabama

    Today at 3:30 pm on WRAL-TV

  • CFB: Oklahoma at West Virginia

    Tonight at 6:30 on FOX50

  • NFL: Oakland at New England

    Tomorrow at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Washington at Philadelphia

    Tomorrow at 1:00 pm on FOX50

  • SEC: Florida at Alabama

    Today at 3:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • CFB: NC State vs. Presbyterian

    Tonight at 6:00 on WRAL-FM

  • NHL: Hurricanes vs. Columbus

    Tomorrow at 1:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • NFL: Panthers vs. Pittsburgh

    Tomorrow at 8:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
Half
DUKE 19
TULA 7
 
3:30pm Today
ECU
UNC
6:00pm Tonight
TOWSN
NCCU
 
6:00pm Tonight
NCSU
PRES
 
5th
KAN 0
DET 1
 
4th
CHC 1
LOS 6
 
4:05pm Today
OAK
PHI
4:05pm Today
NYY
TOR
4:10pm Today
COL
ARI
7:05pm Tonight
BAL
BOS
7:05pm Tonight
PIT
MIL
7:10pm Tonight
TAM
CWS
7:10pm Tonight
MIN
CLE
7:10pm Tonight
ATL
NYM
7:10pm Tonight
HOU
SEA
7:10pm Tonight
MIA
WAS
7:15pm Tonight
STL
CIN
8:40pm Tonight
SDP
SFG
9:05pm Tonight
ANA
TEX
3rd
WISC 55
BGU 10
 
3rd
MSU 59
EMICH 7
 
3rd
VT 16
GT 10
 
4th
PITT 20
IOWA 17
 
3rd
RICE 21
ODU 35
 
4th
UGA 52
TROY 0
 
Half
SYR 13
MD 31
 
Half
DUKE 19
TULA 7
 
1st
COL 0
HAW 0
 
1st
AKR 0
MARS 7
 
3:30pm Today
WAKE
ARMY
3:30pm Today
KU
CMICH
3:30pm Today
ALA
UF
3:30pm Today
FIU
LOU
3:30pm Today
ECU
UNC
3:30pm Today
NAVY
RUTG
3:30pm Today
SMU
TEXAM
3:30pm Today
MICH
UTAH
3:30pm Today
BYU
UVA
4:00pm Today
WYO
FATL
4:00pm Today
MIZZ
IND
4:00pm Today
PSU
UMASS
4:00pm Today
MINN
SJST
4:00pm Today
ILL
TXST
6:00pm Tonight
WASH
GASTATE
7:00pm Tonight
SMISS
APPST
7:00pm Tonight
TOL
BST
7:00pm Tonight
OHIO
IDAHO
7:00pm Tonight
CIN
UMO
7:00pm Tonight
MEM
MTST
7:00pm Tonight
LSU
MSST
7:00pm Tonight
ARK
NILL
7:00pm Tonight
ARKST
UTST
7:30pm Tonight
SALABAMA
GASO
7:30pm Tonight
WVU
OKLA
7:30pm Tonight
VANDY
SCAR
8:00pm Tonight
FSU
CLEM
8:00pm Tonight
NEB
MIAMI
8:00pm Tonight
NMST
NMU
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
UNLV
10:00pm Tonight
ARZ
CAL
10:30pm Tonight
BSU
LALAF
10:30pm Tonight
WASU
OREG
10:30pm Tonight
ORST
SDST
6:00pm Tonight
TOWSN
NCCU
 
6:00pm Tonight
NCSU
PRES