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This game doesn't look like a BCS bowl game, but both teams deserve the spot with 11-1 records. It will be the first appearance for both schools in a BCS bowl, but the team from a Big 6 conference is getting a lot more love. Baylor is up to -17 point favorites and still getting a decent amount of money for the Fiesta Bowl as the betting trends at sportsbook.com show 66% of the action is on Baylor and, oh, big surprise, 84% on the over.
The Bears finished with a solid 9-3 ATS record, but only 1-3 ATS on the road after dominating in every home game. Outside of their loss at Oklahoma State, Baylor didn't have many problems en route to winning the Big 12, although they kind of backed in as OK State lost on the final weekend. It should be noted that the Bears had trouble on the road throughout the year, and not just in their loss. They beat TCU by just three points and had trouble topping Kansas State back in October.
UCF is in a little different situation playing in the AAC. The 11 wins look nice, but how much can we make of its schedule? It can't be argued that in their biggest games, the Knights stepped up to the level of competition almost beating South Carolina and then winning at Louisville 38-35 back in October. However, how do they explain their three wins to finish out the season against Temple, South Florida and SMU by a combined 10 points? It could be a case of playing to the opponent's level, or maybe they just aren't as good as their record.
In the big games, the UCF offense came through. Quarterback Blake Bortles has solid numbers on the year, completing 68 percent of passes for 22 TDs and seven INTs. Throwing for 358 yards and two touchdowns against South Carolina is no easy task and he'll need a similar game against Baylor. Bortles spreads it pretty evenly between his wide outs with three guys having at least 660 yards and four having at least 36 receptions. The Knights also have a solid run game led by Storm Johnson (1,015 yards, 11 TDs), but he's been splitting time with William Stanback (six TDs) a bit more lately. Bortles is a big QB and is also a threat to run the ball in from the goal line.
Baylor has faced a number of offenses this year in the Big 12 with Oklahoma's probably being the most similar to UCF's. Bortles is probably better at QB, but both teams have a solid run game with a passing attack that likes to throw deep. The Bears beat OU 41-12 back in November.
An even bigger question for UCF is on the defensive end as Baylor has one of the best offenses in the country. If the Knights allowed 36 points to a team like Temple, what will the Bears do?
After their loss to OK State, Baylor didn't look as good to close the season, but after a month off, the Bears will be hungry for some points. Quarterback Bryce Petty is up there with the best of them in the country with 3,844 yards and a ridiculous 30 TDs compared to two INTs. Slot receiver Tevin Reese missed the last five games and is out for the bowl game, as well. Antwan Goodley (1,319 yards, 13 TDs) and Levi Norwood (five straight games with rec. TD) have held down the receiving game lately. In addition to the efficient passing game, Baylor boasts a great trio at running back. Lache Seastrunk (1,060 yards, 11 TDs) is fully healthy and Glasco Martin (102 yards, one TD vs. Texas) is looking fresher after a slow season. Then there's Shock Linwood (862 yards, eight TDs) who can be a difference-maker if needed.
Baylor is a huge favorite, but it's not like UCF doesn't have the ability to stay close in this game, especially with how the Bears have been away from home this year.
The Knights are 5-0 ATS in their last five non-conference games and 5-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record, but just 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall. The Bears are 10-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and have covered in five straight at a neutral site.
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