Wednesday, January 1: Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ at 8:30 pm EST
#6 Baylor Bears (11-1) vs. #15 UCF Knights (11-1)
This is decidedly not a showdown of big-time football programs, but here they both are in a BCS bowl, with identical 11-1 records.
Vegas line/spread: Baylor by 16.5 (over/under 70)
The Bears are a huge favorite, ranging from 16 to 17 points, the biggest of the bowl season. Total scoring is expected to be high, with the over/under moving up from 68 to 70.
|Game-comparisons||win %||vs. Spread
The game-comparison system agrees that Baylor should win, as they take about 7 of 8 trials. Even against the giant spread, Baylor wins 2/3 of the comparisons. Baylor ranks #2 to Florida State in the Strength power rating while Central Florida is just #44.
Strength power rating: Baylor 51, UCF 27 by Median rating: UCF 52-26
Baylor scoring offense: #1 vs. UCF scoring defense: #50
Baylor scoring defense: #33 vs. UCF scoring offense: #44
Baylor is a 25-point favorite by the Strength power rating, though the scores round to a 24 point margin. The Bears have the nation's #1 adjusted (or unadjusted) scoring offense and aren't bad on defense. UCF is pretty good on both offense and defense but not better than Baylor at either.
Yardage analysis: Baylor 56, UCF 26 per-play: Baylor 52, UCF 31
Yardage differential: Baylor #1 vs. UCF #43
Baylor total offense: #1 vs. UCF total defense: #53
Baylor total defense: #30 vs. UCF total offense: #38
Baylor is #1 in the nation in yardage differential, that is, in outgaining their opponents after adjusting for schedule. The results are much the same as with the score-margin-based power rating, once the projected yardage differential is converted to a score. We project Baylor to gain over 600 yards of offense and UCF to have just under 400, for a total of 1,000 yards between the two teams.
Adjustments to yardage estimate: Baylor 63, UCF 23
- Interceptions: Baylor gets a small edge here due to almost never throwing picks.
- Forced fumbles: Another point for Baylor.
- Sacks: Again, advantage Bears. They should get an average amount of sacks while UCF might have just one; it's worth around 1 1/2 points for Baylor.
- Red zone%: On both offense and defense Baylor performs much better than UCF in the red zone after adjusting for opponents. This is about a 7-point swing to the Bears.
- 3rd-down%: Both teams should do all right on 3rd down, but Baylor might top 50% conversions. They net three points.
- Special Teams: Finally, an area where Central Florida gains on the Bears. UCF ranks #38 and Baylor just #116 in ESPN's special teams ratings. It's a 3.5 point swing toward the Knights.
Summary: Baylor's original 30-point edge has grown to 40 points when all is said and done.
When Baylor has the ball
|Baylor rushing offense: #12
||UCF rushing defense: #56
Lache Seastrunk had 1,060 yards and Shock Linwood had 862, most of that while filling in for Seastrunk and Glasco Martin (490 yards) when they were injured. Central Florida's rushing defense ranks 13th in the nation and would seem to be a good match—unless you correct it for the poor rushing offenses they've faced, after which it falls to #56. Expect the Bears, with all their running backs healthy, to put up around 240 yards on the ground.
|Baylor passing offense: #5||UCF passing defense: #53 per att: #40|
|Baylor interceptions thrown ranking: #3||UCF interceptions picked ranking: #39|
|Baylor quarterback protection rank: #40||UCF pass rush rank: #82|
Bryce Petty was one of the top newcomers of 2013 and he finished with 3,844 yards and a fantastic 30:2 TD:int ratio. Antwan Goodley paced the receivers with 1,319 yards and 13 TDs; Tevin Reece was 2nd with 824 and Levi Norwood added 670. Again, UCF's defense here is just average and Baylor should have around 370 yards.
It's unlikely Petty will throw very many picks this game considering he has just 2 on the year. Also, he's been sacked just 15 times, and the team's #40 ranking is hurt by the 5 sacks on backup Seth Russell vs. 43 attempts.
When UCF has the ball
|UCF rushing offense: #62
||Baylor rushing defense: #55
Storm Johnson topped 1,000 yards this year with 11 touchdowns. Baylor's rushing defense is a lot like UCF's—it ranks #25 in the nation in raw figures, but Baylor faced a lot of bad running teams so it corrects down to #55, making it comparable to the Knight's running game. Johnson and co. should have around 150 yards.
|UCF passing offense: #30||Baylor passing defense: #24 per att: #30|
|UCF interceptions thrown ranking: #33||Baylor interceptions picked ranking: #17|
|UCF quarterback protection rank: #51||Baylor pass rush rank: #49|
Blake Bortles had a great year for the Knights, with 3,280 yards and 22 touchdowns, completing 68% while throwing just 7 picks. Rannell Hall and Breshad Perriman combined almost equally for over 1,500 yards and JJ Worton added 665. Unlike recent seasons Baylor has pretty good pass defense but UCF will get some yardage here, probably around 240 yards.
Baylor's defense has 17 picks this year. Bortles has been sacked 21 times, and Baylor's Chris McAllister and Jamal Palmer combined for 11 on the season.
Baylor's season (11-1)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (6)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (1)
Losses (1) to losing teams (0)
- Wofford W 69- 3
- Buffalo W 70-13
- Louisiana-Monroe W 70- 7
- West Virginia W 73-42
- @ Kansas St W 35-25
- Iowa St W 71- 7
- @ Kansas W 59-14
- #11 Oklahoma W 41-12
- = Texas Tech W 63-34
- @ #13 Oklahoma St L 17-49
- @ TCU W 41-38
- Texas W 30-10
Baylor rocketed to four striaght games of near-or-past 70 points on offense, beating Wofford 69-3, Buffalo 70-13, ULM 70-7, and West Virginia 73-42. They paused for a 35-25 win at Kansas State that showed they were human (and vulnerable), but put up 71 vs. Iowa State.
A 59-14 win at 3-9 Kansas showed they were less effective when they were visitors. So while they could handle Oklahoma 41-12 at home and put up 63 on Texas Tech on a neutral field, when they finally met a top 25 team on the road they were spanked 49-17. Some would say "exposed" but that implies they weren't one of the best teams in the nation; they were, but high-flying offenses come down to the ground every once in a while (even Oregon), and the Bears were missing RBs Seastrunk and Martin and WR Reece. Another road game was a near-loss to TCU, but back at home they humbled Texas.
UCF's season (11-1)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (4)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (1)
Losses (1) to losing teams (0)
- Akron W 38- 7
- @ Florida Int'l W 38- 0
- @ Penn State W 34-31
- # 9 South Carolina L 25-28
- @ Memphis W 24-17
- @ #18 Louisville W 38-35
- Connecticut W 62-17
- Houston W 19-14
- @ Temple W 39-36
- Rutgers W 41-17
- South Florida W 23-20
- @ SMU W 17-13
UCF looked like a good team for the new American Athletic Conference, and in their opening two games they dominated Akron and FIU by a combined 76-7. They won at Penn State 34-31, and nearly beat South Carolina. They only beat Memphis by a touchdown but could have been looking ahead to undefeated Louisville, whom they defeated 38-35.
After that, all they had to do was win out to clinch a BCS bowl. They did, but there were some speed bumps along the way. The Knights took care of Houston 19-14, but needed to score 10 points in the last minute to beat 2-10 Temple 39-36. They beat Rutgers handily, 41-17, but sweated out narrow wins over 2-10 USF and SMU by 7 points total.
UCF does not have any new or recent injuries. For Baylor, both Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin are back from their late-season injuries, and receiver Tevin Reece is expected to be back, too. That means the Bears' offense will be fully-loaded for the first time in a few months. On defense, however, starting linebacker Bryce Hager is doubtful to play.
Psychology/Motivation - Some (unscientific) factors that may come into play during the game:
- Baylor's season: +4 wins; UCF's season: +2 wins
- Baylor's momentum: -1 win; UCF's momentum: +1 win
- Baylor won final game: YES; UCF won final game: YES
- Baylor glad to be there? yes; UCF glad to be there: yes
- Baylor time zones from home: 1; UCF time zones from home: 2;
- Baylor coaching situation: stable; UCF coaching situation: stable
Baylor went from 7-5 to 11-1, but UCF might be even happier about going from 9-3 to 11-1. For one, they never had a national championship on their mind like Baylor did midway through the season. And while a BCS bowl is a big deal for Baylor's program, it's huge for Central Florida.
The Bears arguably could have a letdown after "only" making it to the Fiesta Bowl, and some teams would be indignant at having to play a mid-major football program like UCF. But Baylor has long been a mid-major football program existing in a BCS conference and they're finally playing like a national contender. They'll be more than fired up to be where they are, and it doesn't matter who the opponent is. Being such a big favorite, there is a chance at overconfidence, but it seems Baylor is more concerned with proving the oddsmakers correct—or too conservative.
Baylor slipped a bit—or a lot—in their last three games, losing badly to Oklahoma State, beating TCU by just 3 points, and topping Texas but scoring just 30 points. Is this the same team that was putting up 70 against everyone?
First off, the 70 point spree was against lesser competition, and it always happened at home. Their two worst games came against teams with very good defenses and on the road, and they were shorthanded on offense for the last month of the year. With everyone healthy or close to it and playing on a neutral field, Baylor should be in top offensive form once again.
It's true that they may have lost some of the fire they had when they thought they were the best team in the country. But they've had time to digest the fact that they won't be playing for the national title, and that they are playing in the Fiesta Bowl, the biggest bowl the team's been in since at least 1981.
UCF had a great season and dodged many bullets against weaker opponents. They almost beat South Carolina and they did beat Louisville on the road, earning a spot in the BCS bowl system. Teams that come into bowl games 17 point underdogs are notorious—under the correct circumstances—for beating the spread and even winning outright. When the spread is that big, the underdog has nothing to lose and the favorite is often overconfident. That—and UCF's ability to stay in the game with anyone—gives them hope.
But we're thinking Baylor will be pretty fired up by bowl time to show how good they are, and UCF probably can't keep up. The Bears won't score 70 on the Knights but they'll have their offense rolling. Central Florida will score some points too, as the Bears have defensive lapses and still aren't top-notch in that department. We're guessing there will be lots of offense with Baylor winning by quite a bit.
Prediction: Baylor 56, UCF 28
More previews, odds, and predictions: View the complete 2013-2014 bowl game schedule.