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Fiesta Bowl: Baylor and UCF battle in what could be an offensive sprint

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Fiesta Bowl
UCF vs. Baylor
Tempe, Ariz.
Jan. 1, 2014

If you’re a fan of offense – and really, we all are – then the Fiesta Bowl is for you.

Baylor has the nation’s best offense averaging 624.5 yards per game and 53.3 points per game. UCF is averaging 432 yards per game and 33.2. Baylor’s Bryce Petty and UCF’s Blake Bortles are among the nation’s best quarterbacks and this might be the last chance to see Bortles in a UCF uniform. The junior has been rising up NFL draft boards and could declare after the game.

Bortles has thrown for 3,459 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He played especially well against South Carolina, the Knights best opponent this season. He’ll be out to impress scouts on the biggest stage he’s ever played and possibly end his career on a high note.

But he’ll have to go toe-to-toe with Petty, who is eighth in the nation in passing with 4,036 yards, 30 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’s also added 11 rushing touchdowns this year.

Not a lot of teams have had success stopping Baylor’s offense this season – Oklahoma State was the only team to hold the Bears under 30 points – but UCF has one of the better defenses the Bears have faced this year. The Knights are allowing just 346.3 yards per game and fewer than 20 points per game. But the Knights have not faced an offense nearly as versatile as Baylor’s and the Bears are getting its best receiving weapon – Tevin Reese – back after missing him for four games because of a fractured wrist.

Similarly, Baylor’s defense, which has been awesome at times and terrible at times, will have to get to Bortles, something that has happened quite frequently during the latter half of the season. After taking just seven sacks in the first seven games, Bortles has been sacked 14 times in the past five games. If Baylor can keep Bortles on edge, they can limit his offensive ability.

MASCOT FIGHT

Sometime in history – sometime when Knights were commonplace – a knight, possibly dressed in gold armor, was traveling through the forest when he encountered a bear. And the knight was forced to fight the bear. This probably happened more than once to multiple knights. Sometimes they won, sometimes they lost. My bet is that most time they tried to avoid bears because trying to fight a bear with nothing more than a sword and shield was a dicey proposition.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is I lean toward the bear.

PREDICTIONS

Graham: Baylor 52, UCF 28. Yes, I’m going for the ridiculously high-scoring game and banking on UCF’s inability to slow the Baylor offense. Look, I don’t care how good UCF's stats say its defense is, the Golden Knights have never seen an offense like Baylor’s. There’s no way to prepare for it. Baylor will score early, it will score often and UCF will not be able to keep pace.

Nick: Baylor 40, UCF 30. UCF is going to give Baylor a game. It won't be enough, mind you, but Baylor let Texas hang around early and let Texas Tech take a 20-7 lead. Don't be surprised if it's a close first half, but the Baylor offense will get clicking at some point and then it's time to sit back and watch the fun.

Sam: Baylor 45, UCF 35. Baylor gets a serious boost with wide receiver Tevin Reese returning from injury. Bryce Petty just has so many weapons to work with. I don’t see how the UCF defense can stop them. Sure, Blake Bortles and can put up points too, but I don’t think they’ll be able to quite keep up with Baylor.

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter!

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