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UCF Will Play No. 18 BYU in the Boca Raton Bowl

A marquee quarterback duel — Dillon Gabriel vs. Zach Wilson — is on tap for Dec. 22.

NCAA Football: San Diego State at BYU
BYU star quarterback Zach Wilson

We finally know who the UCF Knights will play next week in the Boca Raton Bowl: The No. 18 BYU Cougars. The Dec. 22 game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

This matchup was first reported on Sunday night by Jake Hatch of Locked on Cougars and Jake Edmonds of KUTV in Utah.

In our most recent bowl predictions Sunday, I explained how BYU would end up as UCF’s opponent after initial press releases suggested that the Knights’ foe would come from the ACC. However, with teams such as Pittsburgh, Boston College and Virginia deciding to skip bowl season, the ACC was not an option for Boca Raton.

Facing the Cougars

BYU owns a 10-1 record. Besides their placement in the CFP rankings, the Cougars are No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 16 in the coaches poll.

This will be the third all-time meeting between these two programs, which split the first two. BYU prevailed at home in 2011 before UCF notched an overtime win inside the Bounce House in 2014. In that game, BYU’s regular starting QB, Taysom Hill, did not play due to injury. The game came down to a fourth-down stop in overtime by the Knights’ defense.

The Cougars and Knights are already scheduled to play twice more in the future: Nov. 11, 2023 at UCF and Aug. 31, 2024 at BYU.

Marquee QB Matchup

This matchup should appeal to many because it brings together two of college football’s most explosive offenses. The Cougars rank among the top 10 in myriad categories and are averaging 43 points and 510.1 total yards of offense per game. The Knights have been just a bit better, posting 44.3 points and 585.6 yards on average.

Each offense succeeds because of its quarterback, and therein lies the head-to-head matchup that will be talked about incessantly leading up to kickoff: Dillon Gabriel versus Zach Wilson.

Gabriel and Wilson both rank amid the nation’s top five QBs for most passing yards and most passing touchdowns. Wilson also ranks third in passing efficiency and ninth in yards per completion. Gabriel sits 16th and 11th in those categories, respectively.

Aloha State Connection

For Gabriel, this game will probably be a little personal as well. He will take on the Cougars 30 years after his dad, Garrett, led Hawaii to an upset win over BYU on Dec. 1, 1990. The Cougars were the No. 4 team in the nation and their quarterback, Ty Detmer, won the Heisman Trophy earlier that day. However, Gabriel threw for 359 yards and two touchdowns in the 59-28 victory.

Dillon Gabriel told the Orlando Sentinel earlier this year just how much that game impacts how he views BYU.

“Back home, the Hawaii and BYU rivalry was huge,” Dillon said. “We would always put that BYU film on and he (Garrett) beat Ty Detmer during the season he won the Heisman. Personally, I won’t be a BYU fan because of it. I’m with my dad on that one.”

The Knights and the Cougars share one common opponent from 2020: Both teams won at Houston. BYU took down the other Cougars on Oct. 16 by a score of 43-26. UCF claimed a 44-21 road win on Oct. 31.

A triumph over BYU could vault the Knights into the top 25. It would be the fourth straight season in which UCF ended the year as a ranked program.