LSU Tigers vs. UCF Golden Knights
Date and Time: Tuesday, January 1, 2019, 1 p.m. ET
Location: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Opening CFB Odds: LSU -8, 54.5
LSU vs. UCF TV Coverage: ESPN
Another undefeated regular season campaign with a new coach at the helm amounted to the same exact thing as last year; not getting invited to the CFP. Either the Knights have to join a Power Five conference or the CFP needs to expand. One of those options is likely to occur in the very near future. Heck, both might actually come to fruition! Either way, the betting line is currently telling us that UCF has a shot to compete against an SEC opponent for the second straight season regardless of the fact that their stud QB – McKenzie Milton – won’t be partaking in this game due to it falling to +7.5 from the 8 point opener.
LSU went 9-3 SU and 6-6 ATS in the regular season and played in a number of memorable games along the way. They buried The U the opening week of the season to let the college football betting world know that they were a player. Then they upset Auburn in Jordan-Hare. After incurring the first loss of the season in “The Swamp” against the Gators, the Tigers returned the favor to Georgia back home in Death Valley. They followed that up with a gritty 19-3 win over a solid Mississippi State team before getting blanked in Tuscaloosa. Then there was the marathon OT loss in College Station to close the regular season. If ever there was a team you’d want to see matched up against the high-flying Knights, it’s the 2018-19 LSU Tigers.
Player To Watch
Darriel Mack Jr. – Resorted to back-up duty a bulk of the season, the freshman is now the leader of the offense after Milton succumbed to a nasty knee injury against USF in the Knights season finale at home against USF. He didn’t have to do much in that one with the Knights already up big, but he was forced to show his mettle the following week in the AAC title game against Memphis with the team’s win streak on the line trailing 38-21 at halftime.
UCF went on to outscore the Tigers 35-3 in the second stanza to pull out the 56-41 win and cover at top rated sportsbooks, and the frosh played an integral part in the comeback win. He threw for 348 yards and 2 TD and rushed for another 59 yards and 4 TD on 18 carries. LSU ranks No. 42 against the pass and No. 40 versus the run but will be without stud CB Greedy Williams whose decided to concentrate on the NFL. That’s a huge void for the Tigers to fill and it’s one Mack Jr. must take advantage of if the Knights are to be competitive throughout this game.
Matchup To Watch
The Knights were downright terrible defending the run this season in allowing 232.1 yards per game ( No. 115 ) as well as a gaudy 5.0 yards per carry ( No. 97 ). That output was actually better on the road where they only conceded an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Regardless, an effort like the one put forth against Cincinnati’s Michael Warren II will be sorely needed when they held him to just 81 yards on 18 carries. Nick Brossette proved to be LSU’s most integral offensive weapon this season after rushing for 922 yards and 14 TD. The kids the definition of a gamer, and he’ll no doubt be pumped about possibly setting a Fiesta Bowl rushing record against the Knights poor excuse of a run defense.
Him possibly not having Clyde Edwards-Helaire joining him due to a possible suspension will be something to gauge over the course of the game should it become a reality. It will be interesting to see just how effective he can be shouldering even more of a load. LSU’s passing attack is anemic at best. If he looks to be running out of steam, live bet UCF if getting an even better on the in-game betting odds.
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As much as I respect the job Coach O did with LSU this season, I’m taking the points with the Knights in this matchup on the closing CFB odds. UCF has proven time and time again that it’s fully capable of rising to the challenge and putting its best foot forward. Even with Milton out of the mix, I’m all in. I came away extremely impressed with the way Darriel Mack Jr. handled himself in the title game to help lead the Knights to not only a win down 17 at the half but also the cover! LSU might get to him early on, but once the nerves settle, I’m expecting him to play his game and give an LSU defense playing without its unit leader major headaches. I won’t call for the outright win since LSU only lost once in the favorite role in a coin flip game in Gainesville. I do however expect this one to go down to the wire and it wouldn’t shock me in the least if UCF somehow managed to find a way to keep its win streak intact.
CFB ATS Betting Pick: UCF +7.5 at BookMaker.eu
CFB Score Prediction: Tigers 31 – Knights 30