Baylor takes on the youngest program to ever make a BCS bowl, the University of Central Florida Knights, in the Fiesta Bowl. Here is a breakdown of the team that fans have affectionately dubbed The University of Cardiac Finishes
Photo via thebeatofsports.com
Last year's team was supposed to be the BCS buster. That team was supposed to take one of the BCS spots and dominate their conference. Last year's team had all of the NFL prospects. This year's Knights team was supposed to finish in the top 3 of the AAC, but not win it. Not with Louisville, Cincinnati, and Rutgers in the same conference. The Russell Athletic Bowl was the highest bowl that experts had projected UCF to be in. 9-3 would be the ideal record for the Knights, the experts said. At 11-1, winning the AAC, it is safe to say that UCF exceeded expectations. Along the way, UCF beat teams that were supposed to dominate them, Penn State, Louisville, Houston. They were also a drive away from beating SEC powerhouse South Carolina. They have not lost a road game this year despite playing at Happy Valley and Louisville. All while dealing with commentators saying that UCF couldn't maintain their dream season, that they would come down to Earth. UCF never did. Yes there were the less than stellar performances to teams like Temple, USF, and SMU, but the team found a way to win. Ucf has had several breakthrough performances from players well known: Blake Bortles, Storm Johnson, JJ Worton and players you haven't heard of : William Stanback, Terrance Plummer. Under the flashy plays, the true identity of this team is to be tough and physical. For a Big 12 comparison of how this team is constructed think 2012-2013 Kansas State.
Quarterback: By now you all have probably heard of Blake Bortles. He is, according to some, the number 2 quarterback draft prospect. His stats are impressive. He has passed for 68.1 %, 3280 yards 22 tds to only 7 ints. He has also rushed for 5 tds. Before the season started, every UCF fan knew that Bortles was the key to the offense, if he shined, UCF would thrive. Bortles has exceeded all expectations, he can throw the deep ball with velocity and accuracy, he can throw on roll outs and on the run. Bortles likes to take off on improvised qb runs to much success. This has drawn comparisons to Andrew Luck. Likes to run play actions where he either runs or steps up and delivers a crisp pass. He is scary accurate. He does take a lot of gambles, basically Drew Brees in Luck's body. What has increased his legacy is the insane amount of clutch drives he had. Be it against Louisville, Temple, USF, and SMU. Not bad for a player who was considered overshadowed by Jeff Driskel coming out of high school. A player who only got a scholarship offer as a qb to Ucf. He has played very well against big teams throwing for a combined 7 tds to 4 ints against PSU, South Carolina, and Louisville this year. The bright lights don't seem to rattle him. Bortles thrives with the spread attack ucf employes.
Running Back: UCF has a two headed monster in the form of Storm Johnson and William Stanback. Storm is the starter and is a dual threat rb. The Miami transfer has run for 1015 yards and 11 tds. He has also caught 29 passes for 271 yards and 3 tds. Storm is a scat back who is very elusive. Oh and just to clarify David Pollack's statements about storm being a fumbling machine, he's only had 3 fumbles all year. William Stanback is the hidden gem of the group. If you want to see a summation of google "William Stanback trucks Rutgers defender". His 6 tds and 410 yards on 92 carries may not be that impressive, but he has come on late taking carries away from Storm. He is very similar to former Michigan running back Chris Perry in terms of size and run style. He looks for contact.
Wrs: This group matches up very well with Baylor's WRs. They are fast, elusive, and know how to beat defenders off the line of scrimmage.This group has become famous because of JJ Worton's amazing catch against Temple. Worton has had a stellar season catching 42 passes for 665 yards and 7 tds. He, however is not Bortles favorite target, that is Rannell Hall who has caught 53 balls for 772 yards and 3 tds. The most exciting player in this group is Breshard Perriman. The sophomore has caught 35 passes for 763 yards and 3 tds. He has a 91 yard catch, 76 yard catch, and 52 yarder on his resume this year. If you can contain Perriman from catching and running in open space, you can stall the offense. UCF will try to neutralize this strategy by running slants and screens to get him in open space. The best story of this unit if Jeff Godfrey. He has 38 catches for 346 yards and 4 tds. But that's only half the story. Godfrey was the toast of the town in Orlando as a qb after UCF beat UGA in the Liberty bowl in 2010. After a poor 2911 season, he was replaced by Blake Bortles towards the end of the 2011 season. Godfrey then left the school, but returned in 2012. Godfrey, who went from beloved to goat, has become beloved again. His game winning catch against Louisville this year has set his legacy at UCF. Overall this unit is very very talented and dangerous.
Oline: This is the most experienced unit of UCF's team. They have combined for 98 games started in their college careers. Anchored by twin brothers Jordan and Justin McCray, this unit is big and nasty. In four non conference games this year, UCF allowed 7 sacks total. They made Clowney a non factor in the USC game. This unit has allowed UCF to control the clock against up tempo teams. Torre an Wilson and Chris Martin are also very good run and pass blockers.
Defense: oh yes the unit that "sucks" according to David Pollack. UCF ranks 13th in total defense by normal stats. Their points a game is an impressive 19.5 with 13 ints. Yes they do surrender a lot of yards 346 yards per game, but teams do not score on them that often. according to football outsiders they rank 23d in FEI, 29 th in defensive effiency, 4th in allowing the fewest explosive plays, and 17th in methodical drives. They have played up tempo teams before such as Houston and SMU, holding both to 14 points each.Oh have I mentioned this is all after losing cusa defensive player of the year, Kemal Ishmael, nfl players AJ Bouye, Troy Davis, Ray Shipmann, and losing would be sophomore Deion Green to injury. While they are under sized, they are nasty. This is probably one of the youngest defenses in the NCAA starting only 1 true senior. Defensive coordinator Jim Fleming is a wizard and has instilled a physicality in this team that was missing. He runs a 4-3.
The heart of the defense is junior linebacker Terrance Plummer. Anybody who watches him play will love his style of play. He has 98 total tackles, 2 ints, 2 forced fumbles. He is a ballhawk and a head hunter. Head hunter is not in a negative context, it just means that there will be a point of time in the game where Plummer will get a hit on the quarterback, it is not a question of if, but when. He is always around the ball, he does not have an off switch. This year he has made several big time defensive plays, his strip of Connor Shaw, his sack of Teddy Bridgewater forcing a ul 3 and out, his coverage on Houston's wide recievef coming across the middle forcing a bobble. Plummer is ucf's best defensive player.
The secondary is a strength led by former walk on Brandin Alexander and Clayton Geathers. They are physical and good at coverage. Cover space well. UCF will use zone primarily.
Coaches: George O Leary has had many critics at UCF. I being a vocal one, but this year was his masterpiece. Yes the team did have a Jekyll and Hyde approach to lesser opposition, but overall there are few complaints. The team played hard and looked poised throughout most of the season. They were composed in late game situations. This is a credit to GOL and his much maligned staff. This will be a true test though as GOL has to face old friend Art Briles. Briles, the bloodthirsty mastermind, has experience coaching against UCF from his time in Houston. However, his Houston teams were never as talented as the team he has now but ucf is also very different from when Briles was at Houston. UCF has finally reached its full potential and it will be interesting to see how these two old foes try to out think each other.
Listen, we ucf fans know that Baylor is a matchup nightmare for us. We know that where we are strong, Baylor is stronger. This is the most talented team we will ever play. Yes there is a 17.5 line against us by bookers in Vegas and yes ESPN thinks we are a joke. But this season has been filled with miracles. No longer are there any what ifs for this program. It has finally reached its apex. It was a fun ride, I wish I hadn't graduated in May so that I could've been on campus to experience it. No one in the country is prouder of their team than the ucf fanbase is. Win or lose, ucf can say we were the youngest program ever to make a Bcs game. No matter what the pundits say they can't take this season away. Isn't it fitting that a program 10 years ago that was 0-11 is one of the last teams to participate in the BCS as we know it. Isn't that what cfb is about? Good luck Baylor fans, I've always feared this match up. Hopefully you've gotten to know one of the grittiest teams in the nation. Maybe some way they'll find another miracle on January 1.