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The Fiesta Bowl: Baylor Bears vs. Central Florida Knights Pick-Odds-Prediction 1/1/14

Central Florida Knights (11-1) at Baylor Bears (11-1)

College Football: Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 8:30 pm (University of Phoenix Stadium)

The Line: Baylor Bears -16.5 -- Over/Under: 69 See the Latest Odds


Storyline: The #6 Baylor Baylor Bears and the country’s most potent offense tussle with a 15th-ranked Central Florida Knights team looking for its first ever 12 win season in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl New Year’s Day.

The Breakdown: Baylor had a season for the ages in 2013, posting ungodly numbers on its way to becoming college football’s most prolific offense and falling just short of the BCS title game. The Bears couldn’t have opened the season any better, short-circuiting scoreboards and setting school records for points and total yards virtually every week in their first four games. Baylor outscored its first three opponents—Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe—by a combined 209-23 and followed by opening its Big 12 slate with a 73-42 throttling of West Virginia. The Bears would come back down to earth the following week in a 35-25 victory over Kansas State before regrouping to score an average of 58.5 points in the four wins that followed, including a 41-12 drubbing of then #10 Oklahoma. Baylor lost its only game of the season the following week in a 49-17 stunner at then #10 Oklahoma State before closing the season with consecutive wins, including a 30-10 rout of Texas in the Big 12 championship game.

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The Fiesta Bowl: Baylor Bears vs. Central Florida Knights Pick-Odds-Prediction 1/1/14

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears have posted stellar numbers in every statistical category, leading the nation in total yards per game (624.5), ranking 6th in passing yards (359.3), 12th in rushing yards (265.2), and topping the country in points per (53.3). Junior QB Bryce Petty (3,844 YDs, 30 TDs, 2 INTs), the nation’s 9th-rated passer, will have his full assortment of weapons back in this one after having to endure the toughest stretch of the season without top running back junior Lache Seastrunk (1,060 YDs, 11 TDs) and senior WR Tevin Reese (824 YDs, 8 TDs), who missed three and five games, respectively, with injuries. This unit is loaded and other standouts include freshman RB Shock Linwood (862 YDs, 8 TDs), junior WR Antwan Goodley (67 REC, 1,319 YDs, 13 TDs), the country’s 11th-rated pass catcher, and junior WR Levi Norwood (43 REC, 670 YDs, 7 TDs).  Defensively, the Bears rank 20th nationally, allowing 21.2 points per and this unit is also stacked with next level talents senior S Ahmad Dixon (70 Tkls, 1 INT), senior LB Eddie Lackey (97 Tkls, 4.5 Sacks) and junior LB BryceHager (71 Tkls) among its standouts.

Meanwhile, Central Florida’s 2013 was far less high-flying. After opening with three consecutive wins, the Knights fell just short of the upset of then #12 South Carolina, losing their only game of the season 28-25. UCF would rebound to take their remaining 8 games and win the newly-formed American Athletic Conference, highlighted by a dramatic come from behind 38-35 upset of then #8 Louisville in the game’s final seconds.

The Knights come in with the FBS’s 46th-ranked total offense (432.0 YDs), its 28th-ranked passing game (280.0 YDs), 81st-ranked ground game (152.0 YDs) and 38th-ranked scoring offense (33.2 points per). They’re led by the country’s 22nd-rated passer and AAC player of the year, junior Blake Bortles (3,280, 22 TDs, 7 INTs). He’ll be joined in the backfield by standout junior RB Storm Johnson (1,015 YDs, 11 TDs) and players to watch also include the receiving trio of junior Rannell Hall (53 REC, 773 YDs, 3 TDs), sophomore Brashad Perriman (36 REC, 763 YDs, 3 TDs) and junior J.J. Worton (42 REC, 665 YDs, 7 TDs), who've combined for 2,201 yards and 13 touchdowns. On the defensive side, UCF ranks a stout 12th in the nation in points allowed at 19.6 per outing.

Rick’s Pick:  The line in this matchup is currently set at -16.5 for Baylor with a 69 point total. It’s simple: at full-strength, this Bear offense is one of the best college football has ever seen and hands down the best this season. And unfortunately for Central Florida, everyone’s healthy and slated to play. Look for a Baylor cover.

Follow me on Twittetr @SCPRick 

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