Game Time: 7:00 pm ET, Thursday, December 23, 2021
Venue: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Where to Watch: ESPN
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Point Spread: UCF +7.5, Florida -7.5; Over/Under: 57 points
Bet365: Point Spread: UCF +7.5, Florida -7.5; Over/Under: 57 points
BetMGM: Point Spread: UCF +7.5, Florida -7.5; Over/Under: 56.5 points
Central Florida Knights: 8-4 (3rd place, AAC)
Florida Gators: 6-6 (6th place, SEC East)
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Central Florida Knights vs Florida Gators Preview and Analysis
Central Florida Knights: won at home on Nov. 26 against the South Florida Bulls 17-13.
Florida Gators: won at home on Nov. 27 against the Florida State Seminoles 24-21.
Central Florida Knights Analysis
The UCF Knights are taking on Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl. They finished their season with an 8-4 record overall and will be playing in their first neutral site game here this regular season. They won 5 of their last 6 games and are coming into this one on a 2 game winning streak after another win in their season finale. Their last loss was against the SMU Mustangs while their 5 wins in that span came against the Memphis Tigers, the Temple Owls, the Tulane Green Wave, the UConn Huskies, and the South Florida Bulls in their last game. Mikey Keene completed 14/26 passes for 115 yards and 1 touchdown in that one. Johnny Richardson led the team in rushing with 94 yards on 8 carries while Mark-Anthony Richards led the team in carries with 14 for 73 yards. Parker Navarro ran in 1 TD on the ground in that one. Ryan O'Keefe led the receivers with 45 yards on 5 receptions while Brandon Johnson caught the lone touchdown pass for them. Tatum Bethune led the defense in that game with 8 solo tackles and 10 assisted ones. Ricky Barber led the defense in sacks in that game with 1.5 while no one on the defense was able to come up with an interception for them in that one. They have scored 386 points in their 12 games this season averaging 32.2 PPG and they have allowed their opponents to score 302 points against them allowing 25.2 PPG. Their offense is averaging 400.6 YPG while their defense is allowing 369.3 YPG.
Florida Gators Analysis
Florida is coming into this matchup after finishing the season with a 6-6 record overall and they were 0-1 in neutral site games on their schedule this season where they will be in this game. They have won 2 of their last 3 games and are coming into this one off of a win in their last game. Their last loss was against the Missouri Tigers while their 2 wins in that span came against the Samford Bulldogs and the Florida State Seminoles in their last game. Quarterback Emory Jones completed 16/24 passes for 163 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions while Anthony Richardson completed 5/7 passes for 55 yards and 1 TD. Dameon Pierce led the team in rushing with 62 yards and 1 touchdown on 12 carries. Kemore Gamble led the receivers with 80 yards and 1 touchdown on 3 receptions while Malik Davis led the team in receptions with 4 for 44 yards. Justin Shorter caught the other touchdown pass in that one. Amari Burney led the defense in that game with 6 solo tackles and 1 assisted one. Brenton Cox led the defense in sacks in that game with 4 while Rashad Torrence II and Jason Marshall Jr. both came up with 1 interception each in that one. They have scored 382 points in their 12 games this season averaging 31.8 PPG and they have allowed their opponents to score 319 points against them allowing 26.6 PPG. Their offense is averaging 471.4 YPG while their defense is allowing 362.2 YPG.
Central Florida vs Florida Prediction
UCF is coming into this Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl as a 7.5 point underdog with the current betting odds according to Draftkings Sportsbook. UCF finished their season off well on a little winning streak and they have won 5 of their last 6 coming into this one. Florida was not playing well in their final games of the season and they have also fired their head coach Dan Mullen so they have been trying to finish their season out and just make it to next year. UCF actually finished with 2 more wins than Florida as the Gators barely slipped into a bowl game at 6-6. This is a state rivalry on a very big stage so the players on both sides will play hard in this game. The best bet to place here is on UCF to cover the spread as they will keep it a close game with a chance to even win it.
Central Florida Florida Prediction: Our NCAAF Pick for Thursday, December 23, 2021 (7:00 pm ET start time) is UCF 34 Florida 30.
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NCAAF Betting Trends
Central Florida Knights: 11-6 O/U after gaining 125 or less passing yards in last game. 23-14 O/U after having won 4 out of their last 5 games. 14-8 O/U off a home no-cover where the team won as a favorite. 5-1 O/U off a home win. 19-8 O/U after allowing 17 points or less in 2 straight games. 5-1 O/U after playing a game at home. 5-1 O/U after a game where they forced 1 or less turnovers.
Florida Gators: 2-6 ATS as a favorite of 3.5 to 10 points. 2-8 ATS as a favorite. 1-7 ATS in non-conference games. 1-5 ATS off 1 or more consecutive unders. 1-7 ATS after the first month of the season.
Central Florida Knights: I. Bowser (RB) Ques Dec 23 - Leg injury. B. Armstrong (LB) out for season - Knee injury. K. Davis (DL) out for season - Knee injury. D. Gabriel (QB) Out indefinitely - Collarbone injury. R. Harvey (RB) out for season - Knee injury.
Florida Gators: None.
“It was the first day I was hired. Somebody told me, ‘Hey, that’s the one.’ When you take a job, you look. I know how important it is. This will be my first rodeo with this rivalry.” - Gus Malzahn on their win against USF in their last game.
"It's just means so much to send us out the right way, the seniors. All week, that was all we talked about, ‘Man, we're going to send y'all out the right way.' And the seniors saying, ‘We going to go out the right way.' Everybody had that same goal. Everybody worked toward that same goal. Just to see it pay off on the field. It might not have been as pretty as we wanted it to be, but there's beauty in it. I wouldn't want it easy. I like a hard-fought battle and that's what it was today." - Dameon Pierce after their win against FSU in their last game.
Central Florida Knights
WR Johnson, Brandon
WR Jaylon Robinson
WR Ryan O'Keefe
TE Hescock, Jake
QB Keene, Mikey
RB Bowser, Isaiah
WR Jacob Copeland
WR Shorter, Justin
WR Whittemore, Trent
TE Gamble, Kemore
QB Jones, Emory
RB Pierce, Dameon
Central Florida Knights
Passing: M. Keene (1586)
Rushing: J. Richardson (693)
Receiving: R. O'Keefe (727)
Touchdowns: B. Johnson (11)
Passing: E. Jones (2562)
Rushing: E. Jones (696)
Receiving: Receiving: J. Copeland (607)
Touchdowns: D. Pierce (15)
Central Florida Knights: Gus Malzahn (1st season)
Florida Gators: Greg Knox (Interim)