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Avenging the 2014 Fiesta Bowl: UCF Game Preview

Bear Face Knights for First Time Since 2014 Fiesta Bowl Defeat

Photo by David Buono/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

UCF Game Notes

Game Date: September 30, 2023

Time: 2:30pm CDT


Stadium: FBC Mortgage Stadium (aka: “The Bounce House”)

Cincinnati v UCF
FBC Mortgage Stadium “The Bounce House”
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Location: Orlando, FL

UCF Record:

Overall: 3-1 | Big 12: 0-1

UCF Head Coach: Gus Malzahn (3rd Season | Record: 18-9)

A Chance for Revenge:

The first and only time the Bears faced the UCF Knights was in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl.

In that game, Blake Bortles and the Knights shocked the college football world with a 52-42 win.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Central Florida v Baylor Getty Images

Nearly ten years later, the Bears face the Knights again; but this time, they will meet as conference foes.

UCF Football History:

The UCF Knights played their inaugural season in 1979. For the first three seasons, the Knights competed in Division III. From 1982-1990, the Knights competed in Division II. From 1990-1996, the Knights competed in Division I-AA (now Division 1 FCS) and made two appearances in the Division I-AA playoffs.

In 1996, UCF made its transition to Division I-A (now Division I FBS.) From 1996-2002, UCF competed as an independent. The Knights then joined the Mid-America Conference (MAC) as a football-only member in 2002 while competing in the Atlantic Sun Conference for all other sports. In 2005, the Knights joined Conference USA for all sports. As members of C-USA, the Knights won two conference championships in 2007 and 2010. In 2011, UCF joined the former Big East Conference now known as the American Athletic Conference (AAC.)

As members of the AAC, the Knights enjoyed perhaps their greatest success. In 2014, the Knights earned the BCS’s at-large bid to the Fiesta Bowl where they defeated heavily-favored Baylor 52-42. In 2017, the Knights achieved a perfect 13-0 season which included an AAC Championship and a 34-27 win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl. The following year, the Knights returned to the Peach Bowl following a second-consecutive 12-0 regular season and AAC title. This time, however, the Knights lost to LSU.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - UCF v Auburn Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

UCF in 2023

After several years as a rumored expansion candidate, UCF officially joined the Big 12 this year. With the announced departure of Texas and Oklahoma, the Knights join the Big 12 along with BYU and fellow former AAC members Cincinnati and Houston.

Led by the same coach they beat in the 2017 Peach Bowl, Gus Malzahn, the Knights are 3-1 overall and 0-1 in Big 12 play. The Knights started the season 3-0 with wins over Kent State, Boise State, and Villanova. Against Kent State and Villanova, the Knights won easily at home by scores of 56-3 and 48-14 respectively. The game against Boise State was a tougher test. For that game, the Knights travelled to Boise to face the Broncos on the Smurf Turf and won on a last-second field goal.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, the Knights travelled to Manhattan, KS, for their inaugural Big 12 matchup against K-State. In that game, UCF’s time in the Big 12 got off to an inauspicious start losing 44-31. UCF managed to keep the game close only trailing 31-24 late in the fourth quarter. However, the Wildcats scored two late touchdowns and only gave up one to UCF for a 44-31 win.

Players to Watch:

Kobe Hudson WR (Sr): The former Auburn transfer leads his team in receiving yards with 463 and yards per game with 115.8. He is also fifth in the nation in both categories.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Kansas State
Kobe Hudson
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

RJ Harvey RB (R-Sr.): Harvey is the first half of UCF’s two-headed rushing attack. So far this year, Harvey has rushed for 283 yards and five touchdowns.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Kansas State
RJ Harvey
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Richardson RB (Sr): The other half of UCF’s running back tandem, Richardson leads the team in total rushing yards with 289.

NCAA Football: Kent State at Central Florida
Johnny Richardson
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Game Analysis:

Last week, the Bears suffered a 38-6 drubbing against a vastly improved Texas Longhorns team. While the talent the competition they face this week is not quite as stiff. the Bears still face an uphill battle Saturday afternoon. They will be facing a talented squad on that team’s home field. The “Bounce House” has a reputation for being loud and full of fan energy. Saturday’s game will likely not be an exception. UCF is favored by 12.5, and the Knights can definitely cover that. While the Knights’ starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee is out with a knee injury, backup Timmy McClain has performed admirably in Plumlee’s place.

Despite the steep odds, the Bears do have some potential bright spots. According to a report in the Dallas Morning News, Head Coach Dave Aranda said that the Bears could have up to five players back from injury this week. Blake Shapen might also be ready to play on Saturday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Texas State at Baylor
Blake Shapen
Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While the Bears have shown some flashes of potential this season, they do not appear to be at the point yet where they can pull off a road win in a hostile environment against a talented team like UCF.

Final Score Prediction: UCF 27 - Baylor 13*

Author’s Note: The management at Our Daily Bears has arranged for Silos Baking to prepare a generous serving of humble pie for the author if the Bears win tomorrow. The author of the article, in turn, has purchased a pint of Blue Bell ice cream which he hopes to enjoy with that pie.

Information and statistics courtesy of the following:

UCF Athletics

Dallas Morning News

Orlando Sentinel (via MSN)


Baylor Athletics

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