BALL STATE CARDINALS (9-3)
vs. UCF KNIGHTS (9-4)
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl - St. Petersburg, FL
Kickoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EDT
Line: UCF -7, Total: 62
Former MAC opponents meet for the first time since 2004, when Ball State challenges Central Florida in Friday's Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg.
The Cardinals have won six straight games (5-1 ATS), but have serious injury issues on the offensive line and with starters QB Keith Wenning (ankle) and WR Jamill Smith (foot) both less than 100 percent. Ball State has both scored and allowed at least 22 points in every game this year. UCF is 7-2 SU in its past nine contests with both losses coming to Tulsa by a combined eight points. Knights QB Blake Bortles has thrown for 15 TD and just 2 INT in his past 10 games. That most recent meeting in 2004 was a 21-17 Ball State win, but the Cardinals have never won a bowl game, getting outscored 37-19 on average in these five losses. UCF won the 2010 Liberty Bowl 10-6 over Georgia just one year after playing in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Can Ball State finally win its first-ever bowl game? For the answer, download your FREE copy of the StatFox Edge College Bowl Guide for all the StatFox Experts picks for each of the 35 bowls, both Against The Spread and Over/Under.
Wenning ranks third in the MAC with 273 total YPG, but he hasn't thrown for 300 yards in any of his team's six straight victories. He does have at least 2 TD passes in each of the past four games though, totaling 10 TD and 5 INT. However, Ball State prefers to pound the football, averaging 214 rushing YPG, which ranks 3rd in the MAC and 23rd in the nation. The Cardinals have rushed for at least 165 yards in each of their six straight wins, averaging 229 YPG on 4.9 YPC. Sophomore Jahwan Edwards (110 rush YPG) is the main ball carrier, rumbling for 786 yards (63 YPC) and 9 TD over the past six games. Fellow sophomore RB Horactio Banks has also been running strong with 215 yards on 36 carries (6.0 YPC) in the past two weeks. These running backs have helped BSU's injury-riddled offensive line maintain its excellent 0.8 sacks allowed per game (T-9th in FBS). Ball State's defense continues to give up big chunks of yardage though, ranking 105th in the nation in total defense (460 YPG), and 108th against the run (206 YPG). The Cardinals have allowed more than 300 rushing yards in three of their past seven games and have forced exactly one turnover in each of the past four contests.
Bortles has thrown for 8 TD and 0 INT during the past five games, while rushing for another four scores. This has helped keep the Knights balanced in their pass/run selection and the team has committed just three turnovers in these five games combined. The offense continues to revolve around MAC leading rusher Latavius Murray (104 rush YPG) who has scored at least one touchdown in each of the past eight games. During this stretch, he's averaged 133 total YPG (897 rushing, 164 receiving) with 15 TD. Another hero for this team has been WR/KR Quincy McDuffie who leads the nation with 34.2 yards per kick return, running three kicks back for touchdowns this year. Defensively, UCF has allowed 23+ points in each of the past four games, giving up more than 200 rushing yards in three of these contests. But the Knights have been better defending the pass, holding seven opponents to 165 passing yards or less. They don't put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks though, with a mere 1.8 sacks per game.