UCF Knights vs. Florida Gators Pick – Gasparilla Bowl December 23, 2021

The Central Florida Knights and Florida Gators were selected to appear in the 2021 Gasparilla Bowl. It’s a regional battle in the pirate bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

Gasparilla is Jose Gaspar, a mythical pirate, hence pirate bowl. This isn’t exactly what the Florida Gators were intending to do this season. Going to a lower-tier bowl like the Gasparilla Bowl wasn’t what Florida had in mind.

Florida didn’t envision going to the College Football Playoff, but playing for a New Year’s Six Bowl was within their goals. After an early-season loss against Alabama, 31-29, the Gators looked defeated in September.

The Gators came close in that one, with the game ending on a failed 2-point conversion. That was only their third game of the season, but they acted like it was the end of the road.

Is it any surprise that Dan Mullen was fired from his post in Gainesville? Failing to be a motivator is a big blemish for a college football head coach.

Mullen couldn’t get much out of his team, and a 24-23 loss versus a mediocre Missouri team was the last straw. Florida responded for a 24-21 win in a rivalry game over the Seminoles.

That was a high note for Florida under interim head coach Greg Knox. Knox is in audition mode right now. He is coaching for a promotion at Florida or somewhere else.

A win over Florida State and a bowl win over Central Florida would put Knox in decent standing going into the offseason. However, he will not be named the full-time head coach following the hiring of Billy Napier.

Central Florida is regarded as a disappointment this season as well. The Knights finished the regular season at 8-4 in a year where they couldn’t get the big win over good teams.

For instance, UCF came up well short against Cincinnati, 56-21, and SMU, 55-28. Following their loss versus SMU on November 13, UCF beat UConn, 49-17, and UCF, 17-13. Winning is good and all, but beating Connecticut and South Florida isn’t impressing.

Head below for our free UCF vs. Florida Gasparilla Pick on December 23, 2021.

Central Florida Knights vs. Florida Gators Gasparilla Bowl Betting Odds and Team Statistics:

The following odds are courtesy of BetUS:

Teams Spread Moneyline Total
UCF Knights +7 (-105) +235 Over 55.5 (-110)
Florida Gators -7 (-115) -180 Under 55.5 (-110)
Team Data UCF Knights Florida Gators
Overall Record 8-4 6-6
ATS Record 4-8-0 3-9-0
Away/Home Record NEUTRAL NEUTRAL
ATS Away/Home NEUTRAL NEUTRAL
Points Per Game 32.2 31.8
Points Against Per Game 25.2 26.6
Passing Yards Per Game 211.3 261.0
Rushing Yards Per Game 189.0 209.2

UCF vs. Florida Prediction:

The UCF Knights have lost against Louisville, Navy, Cincinnati, and SMU. Besides a 36-31 win over Boise State to open the season, I don’t really see a “good” win in their portfolio.

Memphis wasn’t bad in a 24-7 win, but a large chunk of their success has been versus below-average teams. Central Florida had the 74th toughest schedule in the FBS this season.

In that winnable schedule, the Knights have accumulated 400.3 yards per game for 69th in the FBS. They’ve been adequate with 32.2 points per game, but the second gear like when Scott Frost was head coach isn’t present.

UCF is being patient with freshman quarterback Mikey Keene. Starting signal-caller and veteran, Dillon Gabriel, was lost for the year after breaking his collarbone against Louisville on September 17 in a 42-35 loss.

His absence has played a direct result in why they’ve been so stagnant this season offensively. Keene has passed for 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on 63.6% completions in 2021. He has a good future ahead and has had his moments, but freshmen mistakes show up occasionally.


Central Florida Knights vs. Florida Gators Betting Trends:

UCF

  • 6-15 ATS in their previous 21 games
  • 2-5 ATS in their previous seven games at a neutral field
  • 1-4 ATS in their previous five games as an underdog
  • 1-5 ATS in their previous six games after a win
  • 1-5 ATS in their previous six games after allowing less than 20 points

Florida

  • 6-2 ATS in their previous eight games as a favorite in a bowl game
  • 12-5 ATS in their previous 17 games at a neutral field as the betting favorite
  • 0-5 ATS in their previous five games
  • OVER is 8-1 in their previous nine games versus the AAC
  • 1-4 ATS in their previous five games in December

Anthony Richardson will be unavailable in the Gasparilla Bowl, so the quarterbacking duties will belong all to Emory Jones. Jones intends to enter the transfer portal following the bowl, but is scheduled to start one last time for Florida.

He sees the writing on the wall with the Gators intending to go with Richardson as their starter next year. Dan Mullen getting fired may have played a small role, but I think it’s clear he doesn’t want to lose a quarterback battle versus Richardson.

Jones has looked great at times, though not enough in an inconsistent campaign. He goes into the Gasparilla Bowl with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on 67.7% completions. Jones also gained 697 yards and 4 touchdowns on 5.2 yards per carry.

He was the primary quarterback versus Alabama and nearly pulled off the upset at The Swamp. It’s not like Jones has been bad, but Florida feels that Richardson could be the next Cam Newton. In what is likely his final game as a Gator, I could see him doing well in this one.

Florida can move the ball, as they are 11th in the FBS with 470.2 yards per game. They struggled to finish drives at times, though. Florida is 41st with 31.8 points per game. Finding room to go versus a mediocre Knights’ defense shouldn’t be a problem.

The biggest concern for UCF has to be their freshman quarterback versus a respectable SEC defense. Talented cornerback Kaiir Elam is projected as a first-round selection in the draft in 2022, though has the option to return to college. Despite his high accolades and draft status, Elam is not opting out.

Florida conceded 26.6 points per game for what is acceptable work in the SEC. They’ve allowed only 208.6 passing yards per game. The Gators’ secondary should give Keene tough looks in this one. At 7 points, the point spread looks too short in my book. I’m siding with Florida to win and cover in a 35-21 type of game in the Gasparilla Bowl.

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UCF vs. Florida Pick
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Kyle E / Author

Kyle is a veteran of TheSportsGeek and has spent nearly a decade providing accurate sports picks and writeups here. He has been a sports handicapper for 10+ years and started sharing his picks and thoughts in 2011 at TheSportsGeek. His expertise spans across multiple sports, including the NFL, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, and horse racing. Prior to writing for TheSportsGeek, Kyle was a fantasy football expert, who ultimately parlayed it into a successful sports betting career. You can find his picks daily only at TheSportsGeek.

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