The four venues that host the BCS games take turns hosting the Championship game. This year, that duty falls to the folks in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl. But there’s a flip-side to that; lately, ther’s on BCS game that is loaded up with teams you either never heard of or just don’t seem to fit with the concept. This year, that duty falls to the folks in Glendale at the University of Phoenix Stadium as the Fiesta Bowl will host Baylor and the University of Central Florida.
We’re going to ignore the obvious comment here about how an on-line university has a stadium. Instead, we’d rather focus on the fact that since both these teams are making their BCS debuts, the average fan my not know much about these teams. Of course, we are here to fix that.
Let’s start with the basics. Baylor comes into this match ranked #6 and Central Florida is ranked #15, for whatever that is worth. Both schools boast offensive attacks with more lightning-strike capability than the Wehrmacht in 1939, which they both used to notch their signature wins in 2013; Baylor knocked off Oklahoma and Texas, while Central Florida add to the “W” column against Penn State and Louisville.
As far as the “Ls” are concerned, Central Florida hasn’t lost since September 28th against South Carolina. That was their only loss of the season, and despite being largely man-handled by the Gamecocks, the Knights still scored 25 points. Meanwhile, Baylor’s sole defeat came at the hands of the Oklahoma State Cowboys in a 49-17 butt-housing thrashing on November 23rd, and it led to a precipitous drop in the rankings. It was conceivable that had they not lost to Oklahoma State, Baylor could have wound up in Pasadena playing in the BCS title game.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, the chips landed in such a way that the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is likely to be the exact opposite of the Rose Bowl; the skies will be filled with footballs, and these teams will trade two-minute scoring drives and could wind up scoring a combined 80 points.
To that end, Baylor seems to have the distinct advantage; Central Florida’s defense promises to have it’s hands full trying to stop an offense which has hung up 70 points three times this season. One of the keys to this game could be the fact that Central Florida just might be up to the task. While the Central Florida Knights may be largely anonymous on a national stage, they have been solid stopping opponents all season. Central Florida has allowed less than 20 points per game, and they rank 12th nationally in scoring defense. They are athletic, they play solid fundamental football, and Baylor would overlook them at their own peril.
To counter that, expect to see Baylor invest heavily in the play-action pass. Bears quarterback Bryce Petty should be able to guide the Baylor offense to 40+ points if he can keep the Central Florida defense guessing from where the attack is coming. Running backs Lache Seastrunk and Shock Linwood combined for more than 1,900 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. That tandem running attack means Central Florida’s linebackers and secondary are going to have their hands full, because Baylor’s wideouts Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese combined for more 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns as well.
The Bottom Line:
Vegas says Baylor by 17, with an Over/Under of 68. We still do’t get that line, as we explained in our preview piece:
Even Vegas thinks so, just ask the retired bookie J-Dub. Baylor is a 17-point favorite, and the over under is 68. That means Vegas thinks the final score will be somewhere around 45-27. That’s a really weird line because generally this means they think the Fiesta Bowl game will be a blow-out, with Central Florida getting a few “garbage time” scores to make the number. Either way, betting this game is like trying to pick a side in the Bataan Death March…no matter how many points you get, there’s just no real winners here.
Her’s what it comes down to…If Central Florida can confuse Bryce Petty by constantly changing looks and forcing him to check-down through his progressions and make throws into narrow windows, Central Florida can win this game. But if they let Baylor’s offense start rolling, it will be a long day for the Knights.