Florida vs. UCF Odds & Picks: Value on Gasparilla Bowl Over/Under

Florida vs. UCF Odds & Picks: Value on Gasparilla Bowl Over/Under article feature image
Credit:

Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images and James Gilbert/Getty Images. Pictured, from left: Ryan O’Keefe (4) of the UCF Knights and Ja’Quavion Fraziars (0) of the Florida Gators.

Florida vs. UCF Odds

Thursday, Dec. 23
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Florida Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-6.5
-115
56
-110o / -110u
-250
UCF Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+6.5
-105
56
-110o / -110u
+205
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Gasparilla Bowl
Thursday, Dec. 23 · Tampa, FL

This year’s Gasparilla Bowl will feature two squads that fell short of expectations this season, but to different degrees.

UCF never came close to its preseason win total of 9.5, as that was finished by its sixth game after the Knights started the season 3-3. However, UCF got it rolling after getting blown out by Cincinnati on the road and finished the final half of the season 5-1 once it got past a tough opening schedule.

It also overcame a major loss in quarterback Dillon Gabriel — who suffered a season-ending injury in his third game — leaving true freshman Mikey Keene to run the offense for the majority of the year.

UCF had a very good excuse for falling short of its preseason expectations, but the same can’t be said for a Florida team that limped to a 6-6 finish despite building some momentum early on.

It experienced some tough luck and bad bounces in losses to Kentucky and LSU, but instead of picking itself up off the mat after those frustrations, it let that completely derail the rest of the season.

Saying that a team “quit” is often overused and sometimes unfair, but anyone who watched this Gator team would probably tell you how clear it was that this group just was not invested down the stretch. That likely had a lot to do with the leadership at the top, which is why Florida is entering 2022 with a completely rebuilt coaching staff after deciding it was time to clean house.

Florida did manage to get its act together in its final game of the season against Florida State, which secured a bowl berth.

Will the Gators be invested in this matchup and look to make a statement against an in-state opponent, or will UCF’s fanbase be able to claim its team as the best squad in Florida again?


Florida Gators

Florida Offense

Florida’s biggest strength on the team this season was probably the running game, thanks to a very deep backfield.

Quarterback Emory Jones actually led the team in rushing yards with 696, but Florida saw a total of five players with at least 300 yards on the ground this season: Jones, fellow quarterback Anthony Richardson and running backs Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis and Nay’Quan Wright.

Florida has a lot of talent on the ground between its quarterbacks and running backs, which has the Gators ranked ninth in missed tackles forced per attempt. Though Pierce received only 87 carries on the year in a crowded backfield, his 93.6 PFF rushing grade led the nation at the position, and he comfortably led the backfield with 5.9 yards per carry.

Jones entered the transfer portal after the regular season but will be suiting up in the bowl game before looking for other opportunities. The Gators are lucky that he’s sticking around because Richardson will miss this game with an injury.

While Jones’ legs have been a big weapon, he just hasn’t been very effective through the air, as evidenced by his ranking of 83rd in PFF passing grade. It’s tough to put all the blame on Jones, though, as Florida’s pass-catchers have really struggled this season after some significant departures from the 2020 team.

Creating separation has been a major issue for this receiving corps, which hasn’t made Jones’ job any easier. Jacob Copeland is the only player on the team who surpassed 500 receiving yards this season, and nearly 30% of his yards came in Week 2 against USF.

Heading into the offseason, finding difference-makers on the outside should be at the top of Florida’s to-do list.

Florida Defense

Dan Mullen actually let defensive coordinator Todd Grantham go before he was shown the door himself, and most Florida fans would tell you that Grantham’s exit came far too late.

Where the Gators really struggled this year was against the ground game, finishing the regular season ranked 87th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed.

There were a few instances in which Florida got abused on the ground — namely against LSU, when it allowed running back Tyrion Davis-Price to run for 287 yards and three touchdowns on 36 attempts.

It also gifted South Carolina its best rushing performance by far, as the Gamecocks racked up 6.8 yards per carry in their blowout win over Florida. To put that in perspective, South Carolina’s best yards-per-carry average against an FBS opponent outside of that was just 4.2 against Auburn.

Florida did receive a solid showing from its pass rush, which ranked 19th in pressure rate. The top performer was edge defender Zachary Carter, who led the team in sacks and tackles for loss. Unfortunately for the Gators, though, Carter has opted out of this game to prepare for the NFL Draft.

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Central Florida Knights

UCF Offense

UCF’s Gabriel was arguably in the upper echelon of college football quarterbacks heading into the year, but his early season-ending injury derailed the Knights’ passing game.

Gabriel’s strength was attacking downfield in former coach Josh Heupel’s system, but those deep shots were almost nonexistent after the team transitioned to Keene at quarterback. UCF’s 8.8 average depth of target in the passing game ranked all the way down at 104th, and that was a year after the Knights ranked 12th in that same category in 2020.

It wasn’t just the aggressiveness that declined, though, because the efficiency saw a steep drop-off as well. The Knights rank 100th in Expected Points Added (EPA) per pass and 84th in Passing Success Rate.

The UCF ground game has been the backbone of the offense this season and will look to exploit a Florida front that has been liable to get pushed around.

Top running back Isaiah Bowser has been out for a while, but backup Johnny Richardson has proven more than capable of picking up the slack. Richardson’s 0.27 missed tackles forced per attempt have been comfortably better than Bowser’s 0.19, per PFF, and he’s averaging 6.9 yards per carry compared to Bowser’s 4.5.

Bowser could be back for this contest, but regardless, the ground game is in good hands even if he doesn’t play.

UCF Defense

Florida’s receivers have struggled tremendously to create on their own this season, and that should continue against a secondary that ranks 11th in yards allowed per coverage snap.

Cornerback Davonte Brown was particularly stingy in coverage, as his 84.6 PFF coverage grade ranked fifth among AAC corners. He also didn’t allow a single touchdown on 382 coverage snaps.

On the other side, fellow outside cornerback Corey Thornton allowed only 154 yards in coverage this season on 33 targets (4.7 yards per target). This defense plays plenty of man coverage, so this Florida receiving corps will be in for a tough test to find separation.

The key to defending Florida is stopping the run, and UCF could be very overmatched in that department, considering its ranking of 82nd in EPA allowed per carry.

It didn’t play many good rushing attacks this season, but when it did, things often turned out poorly for the Knights. Particularly, they allowed eight yards per carry to Cincinnati and 6.7 to SMU — and both contests happened to be games in which the Knights gave up more than 50 points.

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Florida vs. UCF Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Florida and UCF match up statistically:

Florida Offense vs. UCF Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 29 70
Line Yards 31 64
Pass Success 23 27
Pass Blocking** 58 95
Big Play 66 74
Havoc 64 26
Finishing Drives 38 44
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

UCF Offense vs. Florida Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 23 87
Line Yards 20 92
Pass Success 84 32
Pass Blocking** 6 21
Big Play 56 84
Havoc 85 76
Finishing Drives 13 71
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 67 109
Coverage 103 19
Middle 8 58 12
SP+ Special Teams 72 112
Plays per Minute 68 50
Rush Rate 55.1% (64) 53.9% (74)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.


Florida vs. UCF Betting Pick

It’s tough to see either passing attack having a lot of success based on what each side has shown throughout the season. UCF’s cornerbacks are set up to handle a weak group of Florida pass-catchers, and the Knights’ passing game hasn’t shown much of anything in 2021.

This total has come down from an earlier number of 57, but I still see value at the current price in a game I project at 51.3.

Both ground games could find a lot of success here, but I have serious doubts about how these squads will be able to move the ball through the air with any consistency.

Overs have killed early on in bowl season, but I guess I’ll be stepping in front of that train here.

Pick: Under 55.5

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