If you had to guess, between LSU and UCF, which team was coming off of a season where they claimed a national championship, you’d probably guess that LSU was the team ranked highly enough to do that. But UCF was that team, and are looking to finish another perfect season to run their winning streak as a program to 26 games.
Here, they are again underdogs, this time relying on their backup quarterback against one of the best defenses in all of college football. LSU is a 7-point favorite at BetOnline heading into the Fiesta Bowl, as they look to prevent UCF from completing a second consecutive perfect season ending with a bowl win over an SEC team.
LSU averages 389 yards per game on offense, which ranks 80th in the country. They average 31.8 points per game, which puts them in a tie for the 45th best scoring offense in college football. Their offense is pretty offensive, to be honest, with their only 40-point games this season coming against Ole Miss’ leaky defense and against Rice.
The Tigers put the ball in the air for 214.7 yards per game, which is the 82nd best passing average in the FBS. Joe Burrow has thrown just 12 touchdown passes in 12 games, which is not a ratio you want to see from your quarterback.
Ed Orgeron’s team runs the ball for 174.7 yards per game, which ranks 58th in that category. This should be where the Tigers have an advantage, as the UCF run defense is one of the worst in college football. Last time out, the Knights gave up 401 yards rushing to Memphis, something LSU is more than capable of repeating.
LSU gives up 346 yards per game on defense, which ranks 30th in the country. Their 20.9 points per game allowed makes them the 22nd best scoring defense in college football. They have to contend with a great offense in this game, but have shown that they can get stops against almost anyone.
Against the pass, the Tigers rank 44th, allowing 206.8 yards per game to opposing aerial attacks. And they rank 38th against the run, allowing 139.3 yards per game to rushing attacks on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. With the Knights relying on their backup quarterback, LSU will have to be extra diligent when it comes to stopping the run.
UCF Knights Fiesta Bowl Analysis
UCF has the third most prolific offense in college football, as they average 545 yards per game, just four yards behind Ohio State for the second spot in the country. Their 44.2 points per game have them in fifth in scoring offense. Most of those yards and points came with McKenzie Milton at quarterback, but Darriel Mack Jr. was more than capable of putting up points in the American championship game when he helped his team score 56 points.
The Knights rank 29th in passing, moving the ball for 268.9 yards per game in the air. Mack threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns in his last time out, but he has never faced a defense as good as the one LSU is going to put on the field here.
On the ground, Josh Huepel’s team is ranked fifth in the country, gashing teams for 276.5 yards per game. LSU isn’t great in any one area on defense, but are solid across the board, and could limit what UCF does best by stopping the run.
UCF allows 424 yards per game, which ranks 87th in college football. But their scoring defense is tied with California’s elite defense for 24th in the nation, giving up 21.3 points per game. Bending and not breaking is fine, but UCF sure does a lot of bending to give up so many yards with so few points, which might not be sustainable.
The defending national champions (in their own minds) average 196.2 yards allowed through the air, which is good for 32nd in college football. But UCF has one of the worst run defenses in all of college football, as they give up 227.4 yards pre game to opposing rushers. That total ranks 118th out of 130 FBS schools. They will need to buckle down to avoid getting run on all over the field by LSU.
LSU vs. UCF Trends
LSU went 9-3 straight up over the course of the 2018 season, and went 6-6 against the spread. Despite playing in one of the best conferences in college football, LSU has been far from a good bowl team, going 2-5 against the spread in their last seven bowl games. The Tigers are also 1-6-1 against the spread in their last eight non-conference games, without most of those games coming against teams as tough as UCF.
UCF, on the other hand, are a perfect 12-0 straight up for the season to this point and are 9-3 against the spread. Despite criticisms of their schedule, the Knights have brought their best to their toughest games. They are 4-0 against the spread in their last four games against teams with winning records. They have also covered the spread in five of their last six overall games, even after losing Milton for the season two games ago.
LSU plays tougher competition than UCF on a year-to-year basis, without question, and the concerns with UCF’s schedule are certainly valid. But this game is the Super Bowl for UCF, as they look not only to complete a second straight perfect season, but to also get themselves into a position where they can argue that the College Football Playoff should be expanded to eight teams to include teams like UCF in the future.
With all of that on the line, and with the more explosive offense to boot, take UCF and the touchdown to fight valiantly for all 60 minutes regardless of the final score.
BetOnline is a TOP ONLINE SPORTSBOOK for betting on College Football Deposit Bonus: 50% up to $1000