2014 Fiesta Bowl - UCF 52, Baylor 42
2013-2014 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2014 Fiesta Bowl
Tostistos Fiesta Bowl
UCF 52, Baylor 42
Basically … In a wild shootout with several twists and turns, Blake Bortles threw three touchdown passes with a ten-yard scoring pass to Breshad Perriman giving UCF the lead to break a 28-28 tie, and Bortles pushed the lead ahead with a 15-yard scoring dash. Baylor wouldn't go away, with Glasco Martin running for a nine-yard score with just over 12 minutes to play, but UCF answered with a 40-yard scoring dash from Storm Johnson. Down 52-35 late, Baylor came up with a nine-yard Clay Fuller touchdown catch with just over a minute to play, but UCF recovered the onside kick.
Bryce Petty ran for two touchdowns – including a flipping, diving 13-yard play in the second – and he threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Levi Norwood in a fun first half. UCF was unstoppable, getting up 14-0 on two Johnson touchdown runs, and in the second quarter got two Bortles to Rannell Hall touchdown plays from 50 and 34 yards out.
- Baylor committed 17 penalties for 135 yards. UCF was flagged four times for 40 yards.
- UCF outgained Baylor 556 yards to 550
- UCF QB Blake Bortles completed 20-of-31 passes for 301 yards and three scores with two picks, and he ran eight times for 93 yards and a score.
- UCF RB Storm Johnson ran 20 times for 124 yards and three touchdowns.
- UCF WR Rannell Hall caught four passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
- Baylor QB Bryce Petty caught 30-of-47 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns with a pick, and ran 11 times for 17 yards and three scores.
- Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk ran 17 times for 117 yards
Baylor (11-1) vs. UCF (11-1) Jan. 1, 8:30, ESPN
Here's The Deal … There's always a little extra juice in the building when a program is making its BCS bowl debut. Put two first-timers on the field together, and the recipe for an electrified atmosphere is firmly in place.
A Fiesta Bowl trip is a momentous occasion for UCF, one of those events that winds up on the historical timeline. Ditto Baylor, which hasn't appeared in a game of this magnitude since the 1950s. Both schools are aiming to add an exclamation point to 11-win seasons that have surpassed all expectations.
The Knights have made the most of their debut in the American, stunning Louisville on Oct. 18 to seize control of a conference that appeared to be a little beyond their grasp when the season began. UCF held serve throughout the second half of the year, dodging a bunch of bullets and close calls with second-rate opponents to lose just once, a three-pointer to No. 12 South Carolina. The Knights will play with something to prove in Glendale, cognizant of the public perception that they don't belong on one of the sport's five biggest postseason stages.
George O'Leary has been a game-changer in Orlando. Art Briles has been downright transformational in Waco. In six seasons, Briles has helped turn Baylor into a nationally-known entity, using his creativity and offensive ingenuity to win 29 games over the last three years. The current edition is averaging 53 points per game, coming within a Nov. 23 blowout loss to Oklahoma State from facing Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game. On the final weekend of the regular season, the Bears got a win over Texas—and some help from Oklahoma—to lock down this berth and their first outright crown since 1980.
Players to Watch: Baylor scores fast and from just about anywhere on the field. No program has produced more plays of 20 yards (or 50 yards) than the Bears, who spread the field out and dare opposing defenses to match their speed. QB Bryce Petty has flourished in his first year as Briles' triggerman, accounting for 41 touchdowns and just two picks. It helps, naturally, to be surrounded by an embarrassment of riches at the skill positions. A month off means running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin will be at full strength. Oh, and blazing WR Tevin Reese is expected back from a wrist injury, joining big-play receivers Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood. No amount of time is sufficient to prepare for all of Baylor's offensive options.
UCF will counter on offense with QB Blake Bortles, a rapidly rising prospect within NFL Draft circles. He's just a junior, with designs on making a decision about his future shortly after the Fiesta Bowl. Bortles will become even buzzier if he engineers an upset of heavily-favored Baylor. He's a classic pro-style hurler, with the athletic ability to escape pressure when the pocket breaks down. His cast of skill position players is a good one, including complementary backs Storm Johnson and William Stanback and veteran receivers J. J. Worton, Breshad Perriman and Rannell Hall.
Lost in all of the high-scoring games and offensive fireworks is the fact that Baylor is flush with defensive talent as well. Despite emptying the bench in the second half of many blowouts, the Bears are yielding just 21 points a game. They swarm to the ball, deliver the payload and generate a lot of picks and stops behind the line. You want depth and breadth of talent? Baylor has a First Team All-Big 12 performer at every level of the D, from DE Chris McAllister up front to LB Bryce Hager and S Ahmad Dixon in the back seven. Phil Bennett's unit has played hard, fast and with a chip on its shoulder all season long.
Sure, the numbers look pretty good; UCF is No. 3 in the American in total defense and scoring D. But, the Knights didn't see anything during the regular season that resembles Baylor's diverse attack. They pride themselves on being fast from sideline-to-sideline and sound in pass defense. Middle LB Terrance Plummer is the emotional and physical leader, racking up a team-best 96 tackles, eight stops for loss, two picks and two forced fumbles. The front four, though, will have a difficult time getting penetration against a hulking Bear O-line headed by 340-pound All-American G Cyril Richardson.
Baylor will win if … it doesn't fumble the game away.
The only way the Bears offense is going to be stopped in Glendale is if it shoots itself in the foot. It would be out of character, since the team has only turned the ball over 15 times in a dozen games, but a bigger stage can have a way of messing with old habits. As long as Baylor doesn't suddenly become careless with the ball, it'll have a shot to approach its season scoring average, especially since the two-deep is as healthy as it's been since the first half of the regular season.
UCF will win if … Bortles plays beyond his rising ceiling, keeping his Knights going stride-for-stride deep into the second half.
UCF has had a knack for coming through in tight games, winning the last six decided by a touchdown or less. It's incumbent upon the entire team to take Baylor's best early shots, remain standing and be within single-digits at the halftime break. The Knights need to believe that they can hang with the Big 12 champs. For that to happen, Bortles will have to be the steady hand on offense, spreading the ball around to all of his playmakers, with a minimum of costly mistakes that give the ball back to the Bears.
What Will Happen: Baylor has far superior talent to UCF, and it'll advertise that edge for four quarters in Glendale.
With time to rest, regroup and formulate a gameplan, the Bears in January are going to look an awful lot like the Bears of September, obliterating an overmatched opponent. Baylor has too much speed and depth, on both sides of the ball, for a Knight squad that was rather fortunate to escape the likes of Temple and Memphis during the regular season. Making the challenge even tougher is the reality that the Bears are close to being at full strength for the first time in months. Baylor will jump all over UCF, building a huge first-half lead that it won't relinquish over the final 30 minutes of a comfortable win.
Prediction: Baylor 49 … UCF 27
Line: Baylor -16.5 o/u: 68.5
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EARLY QUICK PREVIEW
Baylor vs. UCF
Get ready for a slew of "if someone told you UCF and Baylor were playing in the Fiesta Bowl" type of storylines, but it really is a special moment for two programs that aren't exactly household college football names. Even so, Baylor has the potential to close out a special season with a tremendous win, going 11-1 with an outright Big 12 championship, dominating just about everyone except Oklahoma State, and even in that game, QB Bryce Petty put up huge numbers.
UCF needs a victory to give the oft-mocked American Athletic Conference, formerly known as the Big East, to help give it some legitimacy. Louisville helped the cause last year with a win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, but a UCF win would do even more – especially with the Cardinals leaving the conference next season.
Three Reasons Why You Have To Watch This Bowl
1. Both teams are 11-1 with legitimate wins over some strong teams. UCF beat Penn State in Happy Valley, and hung tough with South Carolina in a 28-25 loss. The win over Louisville set the tone for the rest of the year, and time and against the Knights came through in the clutch. Baylor had problems against Oklahoma State, but steamrolled past everyone else, winning ten of 11 games by double digits.
2. The Bear offense has been special all season long, and now it gets another national showcase. It fizzled the first time around when everyone was watching it struggle with the Cowboys, but given a few weeks to prepare, this could be devastating if it gets hot. Considering the way Baylor played in last year's Holiday Bowl against UCLA in a 49-26 win, look out.
3. Unlike Baylor games, UCF games have been wars going down to the wire time and again. Eight of the last ten games were decided by a touchdown or less, and seven of those were decided by four points or fewer. However …
And Why You Shouldn't Care A Lick: UCF might not be all that great at playing college football. It's one thing to struggle late in a loss to South Carolina, and it's another to battle Louisville, and it's a whole other issue to need a big play to get by Temple and a fight to get past South Florida.
Three Names To Drop To Make Every Man Want You And Every Woman Fear You
1. QB Bryce Petty, Jr. Baylor – At the very least, he belonged in the discussion of possible Heisman finalists throwing for 3,844 yards and 30 touchdowns with just two interceptions and 11 rushing touchdowns. While he has struggled a bit with his accuracy over the second half of the season, he's been a tremendous deep ball thrower averaging close to 11 yards per pass on the season.
2. QB Blake Bortles, Jr. UCF – You might not have thought about it at the time, and you might not have thought about it at the time, if you even watched the game, but the UCF win over Louisville might have been a showdown of the top two quarterbacks to go in the upcoming NFL draft. Bortles has next-level size, arm strength and mobility, with a terrific power arm and the accuracy to get hot for long stretches. He'll need to come up with a huge day to keep up the pace.
3. RB Lache Seastrunk, Jr. Baylor – While he didn't win the Heisman as he boldly predicted, he still ran for 1,060 yards and 11 scores, averaging 7.5 yards per carry, despite missing a few games hurt. The former Oregon Duck was a bowl star last year with 138 yards and a score on just 16 carries, and he'll be one of the featured stars now that he's 100%.
Gut-Reaction Pick That Might Change In The Next Few Days On A Whim: Baylor 41, UCF 20