The University of Central Florida Knights from Conference USA and Rutgers University Scarlet Knights from the Big East face off at Tropicana Field in the second annual St. Petersburg Bowl in Florida.
The Central Florida doesn’t have far to travel for this game and perhaps that will help them pick up their first bowl win in their third appearance. UCF lost to Nevada in the 2005 Hawaii Bowl and Mississippi State in the 2007 Liberty Bowl, but are back in the postseason thanks to an 8-4 finish under the guidance of George O’Leary.
For Rutgers, it is making its school-record fifth straight bowl game appearance under head coach Greg Schiano who hadn’t been to a bowl game since 1978. Rutgers is 3-2 all-time in bowl games and it has won each of its last three appearances. The Scarlet Knights went 8-4, giving the team at least eight wins for the fourth straight season.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between UCF and Rutgers on the gridiron.
Brett Hodges has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 2,263 yard and 15 TDs while spreading it all around. A.J. Guyton has 42 catches, 559 yards, Rocky Ross 37 receptions, 412 yards and Kamar Aiken 545 yards, 7 touchdowns are the main threats in the passing game. At running back sophomore Brynn Harvey has rushed for 1,077 yards in 11 games and has 14 rushing touchdowns.
The strength of this team though comes on defense, where the unit ranks in the top five in both sacks and rushing yards allowed. UCF has racked up 37 sacks on the campaign, with 11 different players having contributed to that number. However, defensive ends Jarvis Geathers and Bruce Miller are the two biggest reasons for the success in bringing down opposing quarterbacks. Miller leads the way with 12 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss, while Geathers checks in with 11 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Against the run, the Knights are allowing just 82.5 ypg and only 2.6 yards per carry to opposing clubs. The unit has given up just 10 rushing touchdowns and forced 15 fumbles. The success against the run has helped UCF limit foes to only 20 ppg for the season.
Rutgers has true freshman Tom Savage at quarterback and at time has looked the part, completing just 52.3 percent of his pass attempts. He has thrown for 12 touchdowns against 6 INTs while the offensive line has allowed 39 sacks on the season. Tim Brown is their best receiver averaging 20.6 yards per catch and 1,051 yards and 8 touchdowns on the season. Sophomore Joe Martinek paces the ground attack with 923 yards and 9 touchdowns, and true freshman Mohamed Sanu will also get some looks out of the wildcat formations after rushing for 305 yards. The versatile Sanu is also a wide receiver that ranks second on the team with 47 catches and 542 yards.
Rutgers possesses one of the better defenses around and are holding opponents to 17 ppg and 312.2 total ypg while creating 32 turnovers and recorded 34 sacks. Defensive end Jonathan Freeny has helped to create big plays with his pressure off the edge. He currently leads Rutgers with 8.5 sacks and 10 QB hurries and he will need to shine if Rutgers is to stop UCF’s improved offense. Devin McCourty highlights the secondary and he is a shutdown corner that has racked up a team-high 78 tackles.
PICK: University of Central Florida Knights