Louisiana State vs Central Florida
When: 1:00 PM ET, Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
PLAYSTATION FIESTA BOWL STORYLINES
GLENDALE – Seventh-ranked Central Florida tries to complete its second straight perfect season when it takes on No. 11 LSU in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 in Glendale, Ariz. The Knights ended last season 13-0 with a 34-27 victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl before winning its final two games this year without star quarterback McKenzie Milton, who suffered a serious knee injury early in the regular-season finale, and 22 UCF seniors are determined to leave with 26 straight wins. “We talk about every game like this could be the one game that could trip us up,” senior defensive lineman Titus Davis told the Orlando Sentinel. “This being the last game, it’s a big game for us and we know that going out with a bang would mean everything to us.”
The starting quarterbacks will offer quite a contrast in experience and style as LSU junior Joe Burrow averages 208.3 yards passing and will go against dual-threat UCF freshman Darriel Mack Jr. Burrow, an Ohio State transfer, finished the season strong with six touchdown passes and no interceptions in the last three games while rushing for 100 in the wild finale against Texas A&M – a 74-72 loss in seven overtimes. Mack ran for 120 yards in his first career start against East Carolina on Oct. 20 and threw for 348 in the American Athletic Conference championship game against Memphis as the Knights (4-5 in bowl games overall) rallied from 17 points down for a 56-41 win.
The Knights are fifth in the nation in rushing offense at 276.5 yards per game and boast five healthy players with at least four touchdowns and 250 yards on the ground, led by sophomore Greg McCrae (1,101 yards, nine TDs). The Tigers, who will play in the 50th bowl game in their history, have limited opponents to 139.3 yards per contest on the ground and junior linebacker Devin White leads the way with 115 tackles – 12 for a loss. If UCF is forced to go to the air more often, LSU is tied for 12th in the nation with 16 interceptions – five by sophomore defensive back Grant Delpit – although star corner Greedy Williams (two interceptions, nine pass breakups) will sit out the game to prepare for the NFL draft.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: LSU -7.5
ABOUT LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC): Burrow has thrown for 2,500 yards and 12 touchdowns, but is completing just 57.4 percent of his passes, while sophomore Justin Jefferson has been the top target for the Tigers with 50 catches, 788 yards (189 versus Georgia and Alabama combined) and four TDs. Senior running back Nick Brossette waited his turn behind Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette for three years before getting his chance and took advantage with 922 yards along 14 scores to lead LSU’s ground attack. Sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire added 626 yards rushing, including 145 against Georgia on Oct. 13, along with seven scores but was held to just three yards against Texas A&M.
ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA (12-0, 8-0 American): While the Knights gave up at least 30 points four times this season and 423.6 yards per game – 86th in the country – the defense has stepped up at key times, including the 38-13 win over Cincinnati. Sophomore defensive back Richie Grant leads the team in tackles (102) and interceptions (six) while Davis led the way in tackles for loss (16) and sacks (6.5) for a unit that is tied for eighth in the nation in turnovers gained with 26. Junior Adrian Killins Jr. is a threat on the ground (698 yards, four TDs) or through the air (385 yards, four TDs) and sophomore Gabriel Davis (50 catches, 756 yards, six TDs) leads a balanced receiving corps.