The 2012 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl takes place this Friday night (7:30pm ET) at Tropicana Field in Tampa, FL featuring the University of Central Florida Knights (9-4) of Conference USA taking on the Ball State Cardinals (9-3) out of the Mid-American Conference. The Knights are 6-7 ATS this season, and have covered in only one of their last three games and dropped their finale to 33-27 Tulsa as a 3 point underdog in the Conference USA Championship Game to lose out on a spot in the Liberty Bowl. Ball St. is 9-3 ATS this season, and the Cardinals covered five consecutive games prior to their season-ending 31-24 win at Miami of Ohio as an 8 point favorite.
The Knights have averaged 35.2 points per game to rank 27th among FBS teams and have averaged 400.7 total yards per game to rank 60th in the nation in total offense. QB Blake Bortles, who threw for 2,787 yards with 22 TDs and only 7 INTs this season, leads the Knights on offense along with bruising running back Latavius Murray; who ran for 1,035 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. Defensively UCF ranks 29th in the country in scoring defense with 22.5 PGP allowed and 46th in total defense with 380.2 YPG allowed.
Ball State ranks 31st in the nation in scoring offense with 35 PPG scored and 22nd in the country in total offense with 471.3 YPG. Cardinal QB Keith Wenning has thrown for 2,878 yards with 22 TDs and 10 INTs this season, while running back Jahwan Edwards has rushed for 1,321 yards and 14 TDs. Wenning’s status for the game is uncertain because of an ankle injury he suffered on November 14, if he cannot play third-string freshman QB Kyle Kamman will likely get the nod under center. The Cardinals’ defense ranks a dismal 91st in the nation in scoring defense with 31.5 PPG and 104th in total defense with 459.8 YPG allowed.
UCF vs. Ball State Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
UCF Knights -7
@ Ball State Cardinals +7
Over 61.5 (-110)
Under 61.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
UCF vs. Ball State Pick:
UCF has a 5-2 record ATS in their last 7 games against MAC teams and are 103 ATS in their last 4 games overall. The Cardinals are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games overall, 19-7 ATS in their last 26 non-conference games and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games against winning teams. The over is 8-1 in UCF’s last 9 games overall, 6-2 in their last 8 games playing on field turf, while the under is 7-2 in their last 9 games against the MAC and 25-10-1 in their last 36 non-conference games. The over is 7-2-1 in Ball State’s last 10 games against winning teams and 4-1-1 in their last 6 non-conference games. The under is 5-2 in their last 7 games overall and 5-2 in their last 7 games on field turf.
UCF has excelled this season in keeping their opponents out of the end zone, and their secondary in particular has been outstanding with 217.8 YPG allowed through the air. The Knights will be playing only 100 miles from campus, and will have what amounts to a home crowd in Tropicana field. Ball State has an 0-5 record in bowl games, and they were demolished 45-13 by Tulsa in their last bowl appearance in the 2010 GMAC Bowl. With Ball State potentially having to go to their third-string quarterback and the Cardinals having one of the most porous defenses in the country, the edge has to go to Central Florida on both sides of the ball. The balanced UCF attack can attack the Cardinal defense on the ground and through the air, and should be able to put up their average point total of 35 PPG or greater against a defense that allowed 31.5 PPG against MAC teams. Take the Knights to cover in what amount to a home game against an over-matched opponent.
PICK = Central Florida -7