Off the Cuff: More UCF Bowl Speculation

by | Nov 28, 2023 | 0 comments

Home E Big 12 E Off the Cuff: More UCF Bowl Speculation

UCF bowl speculation continues to ramp up. Between now and Sunday, December 5th, there has been and will continue to be speculation as to where the UCF Knights will play their bowl game. Factors still in play will still impact where the Knights will play. I had started to talk about this last week. With the regular season done and Conference Championship Saturday left to go, the picture is starting to become a little clearer, going from SMPTE color bars to scramblevision.

We interrupt your normally scheduled Tuesday to talk UCF bowl games

Something to keep in mind is that when you look online and see “Big 12 #4”, it doesn’t necessarily mean the fourth-place team. It just means that the bowl game gets the fourth selection. UCF, being a newcomer to the conference and finishing 9th in the conference at 6-6, is not a high bowl priority for most of the contracted games. Let’s go down the line on the games UCF has a stronger chance of being invited to. These are sorted by date with the time being in the Eastern Standard time zone.

Avocados From Mexico Cure Bowl (Dec 16 – 3:30pm, ABC)

This is by far the least attractive game on the list. While the location is favorable to fans, having relocated this year to UCF’s on-campus FBC Mortgage Stadium, it is the least prestigious game on this list, has the lowest payout, and December 16th is the first day of bowl season. With only 11 days between Selection Sunday and game day, the Knights would not be able to fully utilize all 15 allotted practices, which is one of the big pluses of going to a bowl game. It would also be a glorified home game, which takes away from the bowl game experience for the players. The opponent would be a team from the Group of Five, which is also not desired by a large swath of fans. Despite being an ESPN-owned bowl game, I do not see this as a likely destination due to better games being available.

Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl (Dec 16 – 9:15pm, ESPN)

This game is also not desired based on the date. Like the Cure Bowl, UCF would not be able to take full advantage of the extra 15 practices bowl-bound teams get. This game became a Big 12 tie-in bowl when BYU joined the conference. As an independent, BYU had to get a bowl contract of their own and secured one with the Independence Bowl. Now that they don’t need it, it joins the other games as the last selection. Last week, it did not look likely that UCF was going to end up in one of the contracted bowls, but with TCU and BYU failing to win their sixth game, the Knights move up the pecking order. It’s not unprecedented for contracted bowls to trade teams as a result of better openings elsewhere(more on that later). If one of the other Big 12 schools gets selected by a non-contracted bowl, this becomes the most likely destination against a PAC-12 team.

Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl (Dec 22 – 6:30pm, ESPN)

This is the first game on the list that is 15+ days from Selection Sunday, which is good. The game takes place on a Friday night, which is not as good. This is an AAC/ACC/SEC contracted game, but ESPN has a history of moving teams around in their owned bowl games to maximize matchups. There’s a strong possibility ESPN and the bowl game will want to fill the stadium and create a loud atmosphere, similar to the 2021 edition. To do that, they’d match UCF up with South Florida since the two do not play anymore. Fans are mixed on this as while it’s a very accessible game, others want to face a different opponent. If the Big 12 teams ahead of UCF end up in the Big 12’s contracted bowls and the Knights don’t get picked up by a better game, they’ll likely be relegated here. UCF has been their best team by far in terms of filling the stands and it’s just a far enough drive for some to stay in a hotel and help the local economy.

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Dec 23 – 3:30pm, ABC)

Another ESPN-owned bowl game means the matchup can end up rather wonky. Normally a G5 vs G5 bowl game, there is a shortage of P5 and a glut of G5 teams that are bowl eligible. This means things are going to get moved around and UCF could be one of those teams. This game takes place on a Saturday afternoon, which will allow fans to travel to Fort Worth, Texas, enjoy some tourism(Stockyards, anyone?), and for those who celebrate, be home for Christmas. This game takes place in TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium. This stadium is definitely a step up compared to the First Responder Bowl’s home.

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl (Dec 26 – 5:30pm, ESPN)

This is the fourth ESPN-owned bowl on the list and the third that is normally a G5 vs G5 matchup along with the Cure and Armed Forces Bowl. The Knights have experience playing in Dallas’ Gerald J. Ford Stadium as SMU is a former AAC conference mate. Also, as a post-Christmas game, is better placed on the calendar. The drawback is that the First Responder Bowl is on a Tuesday and has the second lowest payout of the post-Christmas bowls and is less than the Armed Forces Bowl.

Duke’s Mayo Bowl (Dec 27 – 5:30pm ESPN)

Like a couple of others on this list, UCF will need some things to fall their way to land in this bowl. The Duke’s Mayo Bowl is traditionally an ACC vs SEC game, but the SEC is going to have some trouble filling their bowl lineup. What adds to this is that the SEC might have three teams in the CFP/NY6 in Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, and Ole Miss likely being in the top 12. With the Liberty Bowl already affiliated with the Big 12, this game would be more likely to not select an SEC opponent and would open the door for the Knights to face an ACC team. This and the Independence Bowl are the only two on the list that a P5 opponent would be expected. A Wednesday isn’t ideal, but the winning coach gets a giant vat of mayonnaise dumped on them. Worth it.

Things are subject to change depending on how the games go this weekend, but one thing is for certain: UCF is bowl-bound for a school-record eighth straight season. Let the silly season of bowl projections rage on!

About Andrew Gluchov
Andrew has been writing about sports for a variety of websites since 2006 and UCF sports since 2017. He pretty much has an opinion on everything and enjoys online banter way too much. You can find him on Twitter/X at @StatBoyDrew

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