UCF Will Shine Like Knights In Golden Armor In Fiesta Bowl Vs. LSU

Rainman M.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018 4:09 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 4:09 PM UTC

Get the latest college football picks on the Fiesta Bowl between LSU and UCF. The game from Glendale, Arizona, is on New Year’s Day at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. Bet confidently with tips from SBRpicks.com.

Fiesta Bowl: LSU (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. UCF (12-0 SU, 9-3 ATS)Tuesday, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, ArizonaFree NCAAF Pick: Golden Knights ATSBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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UCF’s 25-game win streak, currently the longest in the FBS, is on the line. Last year, they also played in a New Year’s Six bowl game and upset Auburn. This year, they get an opportunity to boost their program’s prestige by beating another SEC team. Conversely, nothing is at stake for LSU. It has to face a team from a low-profile, Group of Five conference.

How They Got Here

The Golden Knights finished undefeated for a second consecutive year, won its conference again, and ranks eighth nationally. LSU lost three games -- at Florida, against Alabama, and at Texas A&M -- and ranks 11th nationally. UCF is 4-5 all-time in bowls and this is Coach Josh Heupel’s first-ever bowl. LSU is 25-23-1 in bowls. Coach Ed Orgeron is 1-1 SU and ATS in bowls with LSU.

Why LSU Can Win/Cover

UCF owns a porous run defense. It allows five YPC, which ranks 96th nationally in the category, despite playing in a Group of Five conference. Temple, for example, ranks similarly to LSU in YPC and ran for more than 200 yards on 4.9 YPC against UCF. LSU boasts a grinding rush attack that ranks 57th with 173 yards per game. It can easily eclipse 200 against this Golden Knights defense as long it doesn’t fall far behind, which could force it to abandon the run game. Except against Alabama, the Tigers haven’t lost a game by more than eight points despite facing three other top-10 teams. LSU's 32nd-ranked scoring defense will allow it to focus on using its physicality and running the ball down UCF’s throat. LSU has covered its last three games when running for more than 200 yards.

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Why UCF Can Win/Cover

The Tigers haven't faced an offense like UCF’s. At best, they faced Georgia, which ranks 13th in scoring offense. But Georgia had an anomalously poor performance thanks largely to an off day from its quarterback, abandonment of its run game, inability to protect the quarterback, to avoid long-yardage situations, and to possess the ball. Central Florida can avoid all those problems with its balanced offensive attack, led by three different running backs and a quarterback who average between 4.8 and nine YPC. Darriel Mack stepped up in place of the injured McKenzie Milton and achieved a 203 passer rating in the AAC title game against Memphis. LSU will be down three starters in its secondary — cornerback Greedy Williams is choosing to sit out, while cornerback Kristian Fulton and free safety John Battle are injured. UCF is 5-0 ATS when throwing for more than 300 yards.

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Common Opponent/Series History

The teams don’t share a common opponent. Central Florida has faced one Power Five team, a Pittsburgh squad that had suffered an abysmal start to its season. Conversely, LSU has faced some low-profile teams. Dating to last season, LSU is 0-5 ATS against its last five Group of Five opponents. The Tigers tend not to get up for those kinds of games.

The Verdict

Capping bowls is all about motivation, and UCF has more to gain in beating a high-profile LSU team than LSU does in beating a Group of Five opponent. Beating the Golden Knights does not help any LSU player’s draft stock and does not help LSU gain prestige. Conversely, beating LSU would boost UCF’s prestige and national profile, keep UCF’s win streak alive, and help UCF claim that it should have been in the playoffs. UCF is a gutsy and resilient team that, down 17 points early and missing its starting quarterback in its conference championship game, came back to win by 15. So, even if LSU comes out and punches them in the mouth, Central Florida will stay in it.

Another key for UCF will be its tempo; it ranks 83 points higher than Georgia in plays per game. Its pace of play will deter LSU from garnering advantages for its defense in terms of assignment and personnel that can allow it to wreak havoc against UCF like it did to Georgia. Central Florida’s offense ranks 25th in sack rate, 15th in stuff rate, (meaning its running backs rarely get stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage), and these factors help it rank fifth in points per game. UCF’s dynamic offense will score plenty of points to secure them the cover, so back the Golden Knights with your NCAAF picks.

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