It’s no longer the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl. Nope. Now it’s the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, with the internet currency (made famous for it’s use for online blackmarket drug sales) taking over as key sponsor for the 6-year old Bowl. This year’s matchup features two teams who had their share of ups and downs in ’14: the 9-3 UCF Knights and 7-5 NC State Wolfpack.
NCSU is in the second year of a rebuild under Dave Doeren and made strides this fall towards becoming relevant in the ACC once more. UCF was coming off a 12-1 season in ’13 that saw star QB Blake Bortles head off to the NFL as the third overall draft pick. 9-3 after losing a player like Bortles on a non-powerhouse team like CF is impressive, especially considering they very easily could’ve (or should’ve) won two of the games they lost this year, which would’ve put them at 11-1 and in the mix for another major bowl for the second year in a row.
In my opinion, UCF’s defense is the only thing that kept them alive this season. The offense was mediocre (QB Justin Holman didn’t have good accuracy and turned the ball over too much), the rushing attack was inconsistent at best and the line simply wasn’t that good. WR Breshad Permian had a very good year, but the explosive WR’s on the roster were hindered by an inaccurate QB who arguably bounced out of the pocket too early and too often this year.
NC State started the year soaring, going 4-0 and jumping out to a 24-7 lead in game 5 against #1 FSU. However, a calamitous nose dive ensued from quarter 2 of that game until five weeks later against Syracuse, a stretch of four losses where the ‘Pack was outscored 150-39. NCSU finished the season pretty well with 3 wins of their last 4 games, including a beatdown of arch rival UNC 35-7 the final week of the season.
NCSU had a moderately effective rushing attack and did a good job limiting turnovers in the passing attack, but were hindered by QB Jacoby Brissett’s inaccuracy. The way Brissett is playing right now, however, is a far cry from where he was at throughout most of the season. He closed the season with 3 passing TD’s on only 11 attempts and rushed for 167 and another score in the finale against the Tar Heels.
The bottom line in this game is that both teams are playing good football right now. Neither team is blessed with much NFL talent, but they’re playing in effective schemes that capitalizes on the skill set of the personnel at hand. In the end, however, UCF is pretty much playing a home game and has done a good job finding ways to win this year. I’ll take the Knights.
Final Score Prediction: UCF 28, NCSU 17.