Florida vs UCF
Gasparilla Bowl, Tampa
7:00 PM EST | ESPN
For all the anticipation of this matchup over the last few years, it’s shocking how we’ve gotten to game day with very little attention to this contest. The overall feeling is that Florida (and it’s fans) are ready for the season to be over and for the Billy Napier era to begin. As for the game, this isn’t exactly a good matchup for the Gators. The Knights are better on both sides of the ball and are a much faster team. In reality, if the Gators show up to play, they can win, but we’ve said that all year as they’ve played to a 6-6 record. I do expect a good game from Emory Jones in his final appearance as a Gator, but can he keep Florida in it? This one feels like a complete toss up, at best. I’ll pick Florida, 31-28.
Last game of the year for the players and the remainder of Dan Mullen’s staff. A bowl game featuring both an in-state venue and in-state opponent. Although there is some familiarity as former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn heads the ship. Unless there’s an overwhelming gap, I view most bowl games as 50-50 affairs. That seems like it’d favor the Knights. UCF has 11 interceptions on the year and that was a problem for Emory Jones during the regular season. Florida hasn’t practiced a whole lot either. UCF’s fans are treating this like it’s a big deal. Hard to believe Malzahn’s group will treat it like that too. Meanwhile, Florida only practiced a handful of times in the past couple weeks. Expect the Gator players to come out hard but I have the Knight taking this. UCF, 31-24.
It’s been a while since the Gators have taken on UCF. In fact, the last time the teams played, Florida was a championship caliber team. But this UF roster is nowhere close to being to being comparable to that 2006 team (obviously). Gators running back Dameon Pierce is returning for one final ride with the team he spent all four years of eligibility with and coach Knox needs to feed the machine who’s coming off a ferocious performance against FSU. The Knights rush defense can be taken advantage of, as their opponents average 4.3 yards a carry compared to Pierce who busts out around six yards a pop. Quarterback Emory Jones will take snaps under center after a forgettable day against the Seminoles and will be the reason this game remains close. Knights, 24-20.
Florida and UCF will kick off from Raymond James Stadium at 7:00 PM on Thursday.