BYU vs. UCF
When: Tuesday, December 22nd, 7:00 PM EST
Where: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla.
TV/Streaming: ESPN, WatchESPN
UCF accepted this bowl bid almost two weeks ago but when its opponent of BYU was announced around a week later, this game just moved up the ladder in terms of significance for this bowl season.
In the last regular season Sagarin Group of Five rankings, BYU sat at the #2 spot, while UCF was at #3.
BYU is looking to wrap up an 11-win season for the first time since 2009 and their first one-loss season since 1996. The Cougars saw its New Year’s Six bowl bid and an undefeated season vanish after falling a yard short of a would-be game-winning touchdown on the game’s final play against Coastal Carolina. BYU did bounce back to beat San Diego State 28-14 in their regular-season finale and clinch their first 10-win season since 2011.
UCF had a somewhat disappointing season for their standards of winning the American Athletic Conference in 2017 & 2018 and finished with three losses in AAC play. The Knights dropped games to Cincinnati, Tulsa, and Memphis but just by a total of 12 points. The Knights won four of their last five games coming into this contest.
This game is expected to be an offensive shootout that pits two of the nation’s most prolific passers in Dillon Gabriel for the Knights and Zach Wilson for the Cougars. Both have thrown for well over 3,000 yards, and they are tied for third in the nation in touchdown passes.
|QB COMPARISON (National Raking)||Dillion Gabriel||Zach Wilson|
|Passing Yards||3rd (3,353)||5th (3,274)|
|Passing Yards Per Game||2nd (372.6)||13th (297.6)|
|Passing TDs||3rd (30)||3rd (30)|
|Total Offense||1st (387.9)||9th (319.6)|
|Points Responsible For||4th (200)||2nd (234)|
BYU and UCF have faced each other twice previously, with each team registering a victory at home. The Cougars won the first matchup in 2011, 24-17 in Provo, while the Knights won the more recent matchup in a hard-fought overtime game in 2014, 31-24, in Orlando.
Overall, here are the overall a statistical breakdowns of the two teams:
BYU Cougars (10-1 Overall, Independent)
BYU had to totally remake its schedule with only two teams and dates that were originally scheduled remained after most of its opponents decided to either cancel or play conference only games in this COVID-19 season.
Instead, of playing six Power Five schools that were originally on the schedule, BYU had to replace these games with Group of Five schools. Regardless of the schedule the Cougars performed well in dominating most of its opponents with the exception of its one, close loss at Coastal Carolina.
This game may be QB Zach Wilson’s final game at BYU, as the junior signal-caller has been floated as a potential top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Wilson has signaled he would make a decision on his future after the game.
But this team is not all just Wilson.
RB Tyler Allgeier has led the rushing attack with 957 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was sidelined with an undisclosed illness in the last BYU game against San Diego State.
WR Dax Milne is the top target for Wilson. He leads the team with 63 catches for 1,118 yards and eight touchdowns.
This game will also put a test to BYU’s defense, which was ranked third overall in all of the FBS in scoring defense in allowing just 14.6 points per game to the test with the powerful UCF offense. The Knights very well will be the most prolific offense it will face this season.
Key Player: QB Zach Wilson
Wilson has 3,267 passing yards and 30 touchdown passes this season and it this is his last collegiate game, he will want to go out with a bang. But he will need to take what the defense gives him like he has all season and likely this is what UCF will give the Cougars. He will want to use the run game going first and then open up the passing game.
UCF Knights (T-3rd AAC, 6-3 Overall, 5-3 AAC)
The Knights have been the kings of the Group of Five since its undefeated season in 2017, which were the only undefeated team in all of FBS that year. UCF also went undefeated in the regular season in 2018 before falling in its bowl game and followed-up last year with another 10-win season.
This year has been a little bit down but still has one of the nation’s top offenses. The Knights are second in the nation in both total offense and passing while scoring at 44.3 points per game. UCF produced 585.6 yards per game and threw for 373.0 yards passing yards per game this year.
The offense starts with QB Dillion Gabriel, who ranked among the top five among FBS quarterbacks in passing yards (3,353) and total offense (3,491) during the regular season. He threw for at least 300 yards in seven games and eclipsed 400 passing yards on four occasions.
His main receiving targets are WRs Marlon Williams and Jaylon Robinson, who combined for 1,974 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.
But the Knights, like the Cougars, are not just a pass only team. This team can also rush the ball. RBs Greg McCrae and Otis Anderson have formed an effective one-two punch in the backfield, combining for 1,295 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.
The main issue with the three losses this year though has been its defense. The Knight defenders have allow 31.4 points per game and 473.7 yards of total offense per game.
Key Player: QB Dillion Gabriel
In what looks to be a shootout type of game, Gabriel will have to be extra special in this game. The big key for the Knight signal caller and really the whole offense is to stay away from any turnovers. If the Knights can win the turnover margin, they will have a good chance of pulling this game out.
With two high octane offenses, the battle of defenses likely will be the determining factor. Whichever team can force the most punts and get the most turnovers will be the winner in this game. The BYU defense has proven itself all season long that it can do this and think they will be the better defense in this game and will lead to the first Cougar bowl win since BYU won the 2018 Potato Bowl (lost last year’s Hawai’i Bowl). BYU 49 UCF 41
Originally from LaMoure, North Dakota, Kent is a 1996 graduate of North Dakota State University. His prior writing experience is over 15 years having previously worked with D2football.com, I-AA.org, and College Sporting News before coming to College Sports Journal in 2016. His main focus is college football is the Missouri Valley Football Conference within the Division I FCS. And in 2017, he began also to look at the FBS Group of Five conferences of the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.
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