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Preview: UCF Faces BYU in the Boca Raton Bowl

Knights face arguably their toughest opponent to finish the season

Cincinnati v Central Florida
Dillon Gabriel
Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

The 2020 football season comes to an end in Boca Raton for the UCF Knights, and they will conclude with their toughest challenge yet, the 10-1 BYU Cougars, in the 2020 Boca Raton Bowl.

It’s a matchup of two of the most explosive offenses in the nation, led by two of the best QBs in college football in Dillon Gabriel and Zach Wilson. The weather should be nice in South Florida, so we could see a shoot-out in arguably the best bowl match-up outside of the College Football Playoff.

ESPN will carry the game live from FAU Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.


Kickoff

When: 7 p.m. ET

Where: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida

Line: BYU -6.5, Over/under 75 (OddsShark).

Gametime Weather: Partly cloudy, 68 degrees at kickoff. A bit breezy.

Threads: Gold/Black/Black.

Gameday Guide

TV

Network: ESPN

Crew: Dave Neal (play-by-play) and former Georgia and Atlanta Falcons QB D.J. Shockley (analyst), with Lericia Harris on the sideline.

Series

All-time: Tied 1-1.

UCF lost to BYU in Provo in heart-breaking fashion in 2011, blowing a 17-10 3rd quarter lead and falling 24-17. UCF had a shot to tie it in the final minutes, but Jeff Godfrey threw an interception on the doorstep of the BYU end zone (no flag was thrown here):

The Knights returned the favor in Orlando in 2014, coming back from down 24-10 in the third and winning a 31-24 overtime thriller. The star was Justin Holman, who went 30/51 for 326 yards and two TDs:

BYU Coming In

The Cougars got off to a flaming hot start, winning their first nine -seven of them by 31 points or more. Zach Wilson was

Head Coach: Kalani Sitake. A finalist for this year’s Eddie Robinson national Coach of the Year award, Sitake took over for Bronco Mendenhall in 2016 and has taken the Cougars to a bowl in every year but one. This has been his most successful season yet, however. A former fullback who was born in Tonga and grew up in Hawai’i, he graduated from BYU in 2000, but has spent most of his coaching career at rival Utah, where he was a defensive assistant under Kyle Whittingham, culminating as the defensive coordinator from 2012-2014. After a year as the DC at Oregon State, he came to BYU to replace Mendenhall when he left for Virginia.

What to Watch For

When UCF Has the Ball

Tulane vs UCF
Bentavious Thompson
Photo by Conor Kvatek/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

This will be where the game is won or lost.

UCF is 8th in the nation in yards per play. BYU is 10th in yards per play allowed. UCF is 5th in scoring offense, BYU is 3rd in scoring defense. It’s the #2 offense against the #9 defense in the nation.

However, BYU has racked up their gaudy defensive rankings against a relatively weak schedule. Their opponents this year have a combined .476 win percentage (82nd in the nation), and although they did beat Navy and Houston from The American on the road, the rest of their wins were against two Mountain West teams, three C-USA teams, two Sun Belt teams and one FCS team. Only two of them - Boise State and UTSA, were above .500.

The best team they’ve played so far was Coastal Carolina, whom they lost to by five points. Coastal beat BYU by pounding the rock, running for 281 yards, throwing for only 85, and possessing the ball for almost 38 minutes. This is not what UCF does. However, if UCF can establish the run, particularly by bruising BYU’s front with Bentavious Thompson and others, this can give Dillon Gabriel play action opportunities downfield.

UCF Offense vs. BYU Defense

UCF Offense FBS Rank Value BYU Defense FBS Rank Value
UCF Offense FBS Rank Value BYU Defense FBS Rank Value
Run/Pass Ratio -- 52/48 Run/Pass Ratio Against -- 53/47
Plays/Game 1 88 Plays Against/Game 15 65.7
Yards/Play 12 6.7 Yards/Play Allowed 10 4.6
Total Offense 2 585.6 Total Defense 9 308.9
Rushing Offense 25 212.6 Rushing Yards Allowed 18 113.2
Passing Offense 2 373 Passing Yards Allowed 24 195.7
Team Passing Efficiency 12 162.4 Team Passing Efficiency Defense 37 126.4
Scoring Offense 5 44.3 Scoring Defense 3 14.6
3rd Down Conversion Pct 11 49% 3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense 43 38%
4th Down Conversion Pct T-56 58% 4th Down Conversion Pct Defense 23 41%
Red Zone Offense 33 88% Red Zone Defense 9 71%
First Downs Gained T-9 255 First Downs Allowed 72 188
Turnovers Lost 42 10 Turnovers Gained 29 18
Time of Possession 109 27:36:00 Time of Possession Allowed -- 30:22:00
Stats: NCAA, TeamRankings.com

When BYU Has the Ball

BYU v Houston
Zach Wilson
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Zach Wilson show has been fun to watch this year. The NFL prospect has thrown for 30 TDs (same as Dillon Gabriel) and just three interceptions, is fifth in the nation in passing with 3,267 yards (Gabriel is 3rd), and is third in completion percentage at 73.2% (Gabriel is 63rd).

BYU also doesn’t turn the ball over. Wilson has thrown just three interceptions, and the Cougars have given the ball up just nine times, which is tied for 17th in the nation. They will have to replicate that against UCF’s turnover-happy defense, which is second in the nation in turnovers caused.

Wilson’s success has, at least in part, been a function of their competence running the ball. Though they’re not a ground-and-pound team at all, Tyler Allgeier is 18 yards short of 1,000 for the year, and the Cougars average 5.4 yards per carry. Don’t be surprised to see them attack UCF’s front where Cincinnati and Tulsa showed they are weakest: against the rush.

BYU Offense vs. UCF Defense

BYU Offense FBS Rank Value UCF Defense FBS Rank Value
BYU Offense FBS Rank Value UCF Defense FBS Rank Value
Run/Pass Ratio -- 53/47 Run/Pass Ratio Against -- 56/44
Plays/Game 99 67.3 Plays Against/Game 126 82.9
Yards/Play 3 7.5 Yards/Play Allowed 80 5.7
Total Offense 8 510.1 Total Defense 117 473.7
Rushing Offense 45 187.9 Rushing Yards Allowed 91 190.2
Passing Offense 11 322.2 Passing Yards Allowed 117 283.4
Team Passing Efficiency 4 187.1 Team Passing Efficiency Defense 91 144.2
Scoring Offense 6 43 Scoring Defense 78 31.4
3rd Down Conversion Pct 18 48% 3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense 79 42%
4th Down Conversion Pct 43 60% 4th Down Conversion Pct Defense 84 61%
Red Zone Offense 15 91% Red Zone Defense 99 88%
First Downs Gained 4 274 First Downs Allowed T-116 242
Turnovers Lost 17 9 Turnovers Gained 2 22
Time of Possession 68 29:38:00 Time of Possession Allowed -- 32:24:00
Stats: NCAA, TeamRankings.com

Special Teams

Should this game come down to field goals, BYU’s Jake Oldroyd is 13/13 this year with a long of 54, including 7/7 from beyond 40. UCF’s Daniel Obarski has only tried two field goals from 40 or longer, both misses.

BYU is also a well-disciplined team, being in the top ten in fewest penalties. UCF struggled in the penalty department all season, although things have been cleaning up in the latter portion of the season.

Special Teams and Misc. Stats

UCF FBS Rank Value BYU FBS Rank Value
UCF FBS Rank Value BYU FBS Rank Value
Net Punting Avg. 45 39.5 Net Punting Avg. 17 41.4
Kickoff Returns Avg. 43 21.9 Kickoff Returns Avg. T-64 20.1
Field Goal Pct 79 69% Field Goal Pct 1 100%
Turnover Margin T-4 12 Turnover Margin 18 9
Fewest Penalties Per Game 126 9.4 Fewest Penalties Per Game 8 4.3
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 122 77.1 Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 7 35.2
Stats: NCAA, TeamRankings.com

Predictions

Get them here:

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