The defending National Champion* UCF Knights put their 25-game winning streak on the line against the LSU Tigers. The NCAA recognized UCF as National Champions last season, and they have a banner up in their stadium indicating they were champions in 2017. However, everyone other than UCF fans are well aware who the real National Champions were last season.
Which begs the question what if they beat LSU in the Fiesta Bowl? It’d be another impressive undefeated season for the Knights, so don’t be surprised if the school rides with the idea that they are National Champions, too. How about just giving them to Clemson or Alabama after the National Championship.
While that won’t happen, the UCF Knights have a shot at beating a good SEC program. LSU will not be at full strength as a result of this being a glorified exhibition game, but this is going to be the best talent that UCF have seen this season. There is a talent gap between LSU and UCF, though the Knights are going to take this game more serious. Heart is going to be on UCF’s side in the Citrus Bowl.
After seeing what UCF did to Auburn last season in the Peach Bowl, LSU likely aren’t going to take them lightly, though. This is a team that has won 25 straight games. They shouldn’t need much more of a reason to take the Knights seriously. UCF will have to do it without their starting quarterback, McKenzie Milton.
Milton suffered a gruesome leg injury against USF in rivalry week to end his career. That put Darriel Mack into the starting position and he didn’t miss a beat against Memphis. Mack put the team on his back in a 56-41 win.
He was wildly successful with 348 passing yards and 2 touchdowns through the air. that wasn’t all, though, not even close. Mack also rushed for 59 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground. Despite Milton leaving the program, Mack is going to have the UCF offense flying around next season. LSU’s defense is going to be more difficult than Memphis by tenfold. If he wants to make an impact and catch the nations attention, here is a big stage to do it. Get our free LSU vs. UCF pick in the Fiesta Bowl below.
LSU Tigers vs. UCF Knights Fiesta Bowl Betting Odds:
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LSU vs. UCF Pick:
LSU concluded their regular season in a crazy one against Texas A&M. The Tigers came up short in seven overtimes, as the Aggies ousted LSU, 74-72. The only losers in that game were the defenses in overtime. There was a total of 84 points scored in overtime before things were settled.
Seeing 74 points on the board against an LSU defense is absurd. A&M scored 31 points on LSU in regulation, which is a lot of points to begin with. That’s the only game that LSU has allowed more than 30 points all season long, and that includes a loss to Alabama.
Prior to the A&M game, LSU had allowed just 16 points per game. Take away the 29 points that Alabama scored and the Tigers gave up 14.8 points per game. They’re going to be down a couple of cornerbacks in this matchup, which is something to keep in mind. Kelvin Joseph will not play because of a violation of team rules. Greedy Williams will be sitting out the Fiesta Bowl as he prepares for the draft. LSU will also be without starting nose tackle Ed Alexander for the same reason as Williams.
The Tigers aren’t likely to be impacted too much by losing defensive talent against UCF, though. They’re a school who just reloads and they’ve been doing it on the defensive side of the ball for a decade. While it would have been nice to have a full compliment of defenders, UCF is without their starting quarterback. Mack put on a show against Memphis, but they had one of the worst defenses in the FBS this season. That’s going to change against the LSU defense despite being shorthanded.
As good as the offense has been for UCF the last two years, the defense has been a letdown. This is where I don’t count the Knights in the same category as the top-5 teams in the country. It isn’t like they had to play high-powered offenses every week, yet still allowed 424 yards per game for 87th in the FBS. Memphis and Cincinnati were the best offenses they played this season. Memphis and Temple both put up 40 points on them.
Say what you want about transfer quarterback Joe Burrow, but he did well in the SEC in his first-year as a starter. Burrow passed for 12 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, while rushing for 375 yards and an additional 7 scores. The offense quietly averaged over 30 points per game. They’re going to be down on defense, but I expect some of the fill ins to want to impress going into next season. Mack is going to be the next big name at UCF, but the Fiesta Bowl is going to be a learning process for him. Like the vast majority of bowl plays for me, it’s not a big wager, but I like a 10 to 13-point win for LSU to end the 25-game winning streak for UCF.