Listen Now! Can UCF take down the Gators in the Gasparilla Bowl? It's possible
Florida and UCF started the 2021 season with high hopes.
The Gators were ranked No. 17 before a game was played.
UCF, under new head coach Gus Malzahn, began the season with a thrilling 36-31 victory over Boise State.
The third weekend of the season turned out to be a turning point for both, and not in a good way.
On Friday, Sept. 17, UCF lost a heartbreaker to Louisville, 42-35. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel threw an interception that was returned for a 66-yard touchdown with just 13 seconds to play in the game. Then, on the game’s final play, as UCF attempted a series of pitch-backs in a desperate attempt to tie the game, Dillon broke his collarbone and was lost for the season.
UCF never looked the same.
Whitley's scouting report:UCF Scouting Report for Gasparilla Bowl
Meanwhile, the next day, Florida fell behind 21-3 to Alabama after one quarter en route to losing 31-29. The near second-half comeback had plenty of pundits seeing this as one of the best losses for any team in years.
In the end, it turned out to be one of many losses, which led to the downfall of coach Dan Mullen.
Now, we find the two poised to play in the Gasparilla Bowl on Dec. 23.
UCF is relying on its true freshman quarterback Mikey Keene, who has showed steady improvement throughout the season. Gabriel recently entered the transfer portal and will play for UCLA next season, so Keene looks to be the future.
Despite the recent development that Emory Jones will enter the transfer portal, he will start for Florida. Next year's expected starter Anthony Richardson underwent surgery to fix an issue with his right knee. The redshirt freshman sprained the knee dancing in the hotel the night before playing at South Carolina on Nov. 6.
When you look at their history, there’s not much between UCF and Florida.
They’ve played twice — in 1999 and 2006 — and Florida dominated both games.
Despite Florida’s dysfunctional 2021 season, they’re still favored by nearly a touchdown.
Is it warranted? Or are the Gators in for a big surprise when they play the Knights?
To give us his opinion on this game, Gainesville Sun columnist David Whitley is the latest guest on the “The *State* of Florida Sports Podcast,” powered by the USA TODAY Network.
David’s had a busy few weeks as the Gators fired defensive coordinator Todd Grantham on Nov. 7, fired Mullen on Nov. 21, held off FSU in a rivalry game to become bowl eligible Nov. 27, then hired new coach Billy Napier on Nov. 28.
Do the Gators deserve to be favored? Or will Big 12 bound UCF prove it can hang with one of the state’s legacy powers before joining a Power 5 program?
If you are a Gators or Knights fan, or if you just plain love college football, you have to listen to this podcast.
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