2019 Fiesta Bowl: Teams, Facts, and Pick
La fiesta grande.
The 2019 Fiesta Bowl is the Group of Five’s annual big shot, at least until the playoff expands to eight teams.
It’s not always the Fiesta Bowl that hosts the best Group of Five champion, but this year, it is. The UCF Knights, undefeated champions of the American Athletic Conference, play the LSU Tigers out of the SEC in this New Year’s Six bowl.
Last year, the Knights took on another SEC team, Auburn, and took Goliath down. Can they do it again or is LSU’s stout defense too much for them?
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2019 Fiesta Bowl: This Year’s Bowl Info
|Tuesday, January 1, 2019, 1:00pm ET (10:00am PT)|
|State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona|
|Broadcast on ESPN|
|Payout derived from CFP Revenue Pool (Link: College Football Poll)|
|LSU is a 7-point favorite|
2019 Fiesta Bowl: LSU Tigers
|9-3 (5-3 SEC); 3rd in SEC West|
|Best Win: Georgia|
|Offensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Offense 45th, Total Offense 79th, Rushing Offense 59th, 3rd Downs 66th, Time of Possession 38th, Turnover Margin 6th, Sacks Allowed 103rd, Red Zone 25th|
|Defensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Defense 22nd, Total Defense 29th, Rushing Defense 38th, Opponent 3rd Downs 31st, Sacks Per Game 43rd, TFL Per Game 57th, Interceptions 12th, Opponent Red Zone 77th|
|Special Teams Ranks (out of 130): Field Goal Kicking 13th, Punts Per Game 41st|
2019 Fiesta Bowl: UCF Knights
|12-0 (8-0 American); 2018 American Athletic Champions|
|Best Win: Cincinnati|
|Offensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Offense 6th, Total Offense 3rd, Rushing Offense 5th, 3rd Downs 4th, Time of Possession 127th, Turnover Margin 3rd, Sacks Allowed 14th, Red Zone 21st|
|Defensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Defense 24th, Total Defense 86th, Rushing Defense 118th, Opponent 3rd Downs 88th, Sacks Per Game 56th, TFL Per Game 5th, Interceptions 28th, Opponent Red Zone 13th|
|Special Teams Ranks (out of 130): Field Goal Kicking 16th, Punts Per Game 121st|
2019 Fiesta Bowl: Head-to-Head
You will watch live the first-ever meeting between the Tigers and Knights. (Link: Winsipedia)
2019 Fiesta Bowl: Pick
You will note above how the statistical rankings look comparable between LSU and UCF, but let’s also keep perspective that UCF was in the American and LSU is in the SEC West. LSU has played, among others, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State, Florida, and Texas A&M. Their schedule was as difficult as any in the country. UCF’s best opponent was Cincinnati and their second-best was maybe Memphis (twice). There is no comparison at all in the level of competition these teams faced. UCF deserves a lot of credit for running the table again, as it is not easy to do, but they had an easier schedule by far.
UCF’s offense under McKenzie Milton was dominant. It is unfortunate that he got injured, and that his injury had complications. With any luck, he will be back playing football again someday. It will not, however, be in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl. Darriel Mack, his replacement, had a fine game against Memphis in the AAC title game, but LSU ain’t Memphis. The Tigers are a capable defensive team; even at that, they will probably not shut the Knights down. They can, however, slow them down and give Joe Burrow a chance. Burrow is not the best of the best but he had his moments. For one thing, he has been able to limit interceptions, which is key against an opportunistic defense like that of UCF. His mobility is also helpful.
It is going to be up to LSU’s defense to get the job done. UCF has played with confidence the past two seasons and they won a very similar bowl game last year. Coach Josh Heupel will have them believing they will win. It’s possible, because LSU is not Oklahoma on offense, but it’s not likely. Yet, the more I think about it, the more I think this will at least be a close game. LSU has lost Greedy Williams and Ed Alexander. Three players didn’t make the trip due to various personal or disciplinary issues. Two other players are injured and out for the game. Finally, they have had two players involved in a recent justifiable fatal shooting. (Link: Orlando Sentinel) That is a lot to handle.
What the hell; let’s do it.