Posted: 2:49 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014
It's a track meet in the desert with two good offenses facing off.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Wednesday, 8:30 pm ET, ESPN
Suggested slogan: Great seats still available! No, really, please buy some more tickets.
The teams: Baylor Bears vs. UCF Knights
How Baylor got here: Largely by firebombing everyone in sight. Well, almost everyone. As the pressure (and injuries) mounted towards season's end, the Bears had a bad couple of bad weeks where they were thrashed by Oklahoma State and barely scraped by TCU. Other than that, Art Briles' bunch tended to win games by scores like 70-13, 73-42, 71-7, 41-12, and 63-34. They then sewed up the Big 12 title with a 30-10 win over Texas to close out the season after OSU lost to Oklahoma. You've heard of Heisman finalist Bryce Petty, but keep your eyes on running back Lache Seastrunk. He hasn't been this healthy in a while, and he's as explosive as they come.
How UCF got here: No, the Knights are not a BCS buster. They have the American Athletic Conference's auto-bid, which used to belong to the Big East. This team almost came into this game undefeated, with its sole loss coming to South Carolina by just three. Sounds good, right? Well, the team didn't always dominate while it wasn't losing closely to an SEC team. Its wins over the American's three worst teams were by a combined 13 points. That said, the Knights also knocked off Penn State and Louisville. Quarterback Blake Bortles is the team's best player, and this could be his last collegiate game if he decides to go pro in something that is sports.
College football fans care because: Who doesn't like offense? Petty vs. Bortles is great, and every major team with an opening is considering Briles for a reason.
SEC fans care because: They care about football, and there's not too much of it left after this game.
Watch this game if...: You like to see the state of the art of football offense against a plucky team that is looking to secure a crowning win for the best season in school history.
Bottom line: Most of the coaching talk around this game has been about Briles—and for good reason—but as important, if not more so, is George O'Leary. His defensive coordinator Jim Flemming left to be head coach at Rhode Island, so O'Leary has been coaching the defense personally through bowl practice. It's been a while since he did this much hands-on work, so will it be effective? Can a crusty old coach really combat Briles's modern offensive attack? Bortles and the offense will score some points, but it can't outscore Baylor without significant help from the defense.
Brandon's pick: Baylor 54, UCF 20
Line: Baylor by 17