Fiesta Bowl Preview

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference some time off can make. Baylor looked pretty banged up towards the end of the season, but they’re going into Glendale tonight more loaded than DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Returning in full force and packing a punch like the Lemmons that Jordan Belfort covets so much in Wolf, it shouldn’t be a surprise the healthy Big 12 Champs are a 17 point favorite. If you’ve seen the movie, I expect the game to go like the Yacht-in-the-storm scene for UCF. If you haven’t seen it, I expect it to be a disaster for UCF.

But then again you never know, with great quarterbacks, great running backs with great names, and underrated defenses…these two teams are more alike than you’d think.

Baylor Offense/Central Florida Defense

First and foremost, you have to talk about Baylor’s captain and Big 12 Offensive MVP, Bryce Petty. Petty capped off a brilliant first year as a starter, throwing for 3,844 yards with 30 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.

Lache Seastrunk, Glasco Martin, and Shock Linwood will all get carries tonight and that should give Central Florida fans a headache.

Tevin Reese will also be returning, which Bryce Petty said is like having "a new toy". Reese, who’s been out without a dislocated wrist since the Kansas game on October 26th, still managed to accumulate an absurd 824 yards and 8 touchdowns in only seven games.

UCF’s defense shouldn’t be overlooked, however. The Knights ranked 12th in Points Against, as their opponents averaged 19.6 in 2013. Though it contains some weaknesses, they have a tightfisted run-defense and two big-play safeties in Clayton Geathers and Brandon Alexander.

But above everything else, the Knights’ defense is best at slowing down faced-paced offenses. UCF stands a chance if they slow down Baylor’s run game, but they’ll have their work cut out for them with all three tailbacks healthy.

Advantage: Baylor

Baylor Defense/UCF Offense

Blake Bortles is no slouch at quarterback. In fact, he’s pretty great. Stat wise, he’s just as impressive as Petty as he compiled 3,280 and 22 touchdowns. He may have five more interceptions than Petty (7), but Bortles has a noteworthy higher completion percentage at 68.1%. Bortles is arguably one of the best signal callers in all of the country and will have a chance to prove it on the big stage tonight.

Also like Petty, Bortles has two very good running backs to balance out his great passing attack. The attack is led by Storm Johnson, who compiled 1,015 rushing yards and 11 scores. The Knights also have the talented freshman William Stanback to compliment Johnson at tailback.

Even with linebacker Bryce Hager listed as questionable, Baylor still packs a powerful punch on defense. The Bears are highlighted by the not-so-favorite of Gary Patterson, Ahmad Dixon and are ranked 20th in scoring defense.

Advantage: Push.

Work of Art

I don’t think Briles will wind-up at Texas, but it’s not an insane thought. Even if this isn’t his last game in green, anything I say would be understatement of just how incredible Briles’ tenure at Baylor has been.

You think Kansas is bad? Baylor had zero conference wins in its first four seasons and was consistently in the pit of the Big 12 until Briles took over. Briles also got the Bears to their first bowl game as a Big 12 member in 2010. Some thought RGIII was going to be an outlier in the Baylor canon, but now we know it was only the tip of the iceberg as Baylor’s only gotten better since their Heisman winner left for the NFL.

Score Prediction: Baylor 55, UCF 34

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