Central Florida Golden Knights vs. Ball State Cardinals
Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
Line: UCF -7
Chances are that you haven’t seen either of these teams play this season. Who could blame you? A couple weeks from now, though, you’ll be dying for something like UCF-Ball St. to pop up on the tube on a Friday night. Enjoy it while it lasts, I guess.
Sexiness: Roseanne Barr
If you asked me to come up with the least sexy bowl pairing possible, Ball St. and UCF would be in the running. If you asked me to name the least sexy celebrity possible, this raunchy comedienne would be in the running.
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Aces: For a team in the offensive-minded Conference USA, the Knights played some relatively salty D. UCF finished second in the conference in total yards allowed per game (380.2) and yards allowed per play (5.12). The defense almost helped propel UCF to the league crown, but the Knights fell to conference champ Tulsa twice in three weeks to finish runner-up.
Deuces: While the defense played well this season, UCF has a bend-but-don’t-break mentality. The Knights do a good job of preventing big plays, but they struggle to make plays in the opponent’s backfield.
Wildcard: George O’Leary. UCF’s head coach has a knack for trickery and deception. Who knows what surprises he may have in store for this game with all that extra time to prepare?
Aces: The Cardinals developed an effective running game this season, relying on sophomore bowling ball Jahwan Edwards to do most of the damage. Edwards cranked out slightly more than 6 yards per carry this year, averaging 110 yards per game on the crowd. He finished tied for third in the conference in rushing touchdowns with 14.
Deuces: Ball St.’s run defense is lousy. Opponents routinely churned out more than 200 yards on the ground against the Cardinals, who gave up more than 300 yards rushing on three separate occasions.
Wildcard: Kicker Steven Schott. The senior has drilled 78 percent of his field-goal attempts since he got the job last season. Could be key in a tight game.
So you don’t forget...: The late Rick Majerus, one of college basketball’s true Xs-and-Os savants, was head coach at Ball State for two years. R.I.P., big fella.
Crystal Ball: From a style standpoint, UCF presents a tough matchup for the Cardinals. Quarterback Blake Bortles and tailback Latavius Murray give the Knights an effective one-two punch in the backfield to keep opposing defenses honest. Look for UCF to get it going on the ground and come out fired up in a game in its own home state. Ball St. will put up a fight, but it won't be enough.
Score: Central Florida 31, Ball State 27