Jacob Harris and Cole Schneider

After a successful two-point conversion, redshirt junior Cole Schneider (65) celebrates with redshirt senior Jacob Harris (87) in the end zone. Despite cutting the lead to three with just over four minutes remaining in the game, the Bearcats offense proved to be too much, defeating the Knights 36-33.

Tuesday night will present the first challenge outside of the AAC for UCF in 2020 as an independent powerhouse awaits. 

The lurking giant is BYU, who missed out on the opportunity to play in a New Year's Six Bowl after a 22-17 loss against No. 12 Coastal Carolina on Dec. 5. 

As consolation, No. 16 BYU (10-1) will go toe-to-toe with UCF (6-3) on Tuesday in the RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN. 

That consolation provides fans with the opportunity to see two of the best offenses in the FBS duel it out with two of the best quarterbacks leading the way. 

The Knights enter the matchup with the nation's second ranked offense, averaging 586 yards per game, while BYU enters as the eighth ranked offense, averaging 510 yards per game. 

UCF's potent offense will ride the hand of quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who has thrown for 3,353 yards with 30 touchdowns and only four interceptions this season. 

Gabriel's stellar sophomore season and the emergence of skilled players Jaylon Robinson, Ryan O'Keefe and Greg McCrae, to name a few, has BYU linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi expecting a battle. 

"They are just going to go quick. It will be different than anything we've seen this year," Kaufusi said. "They have really good athletes like Houston and some of the Texas teams we have played."

Despite UCF's leading receiver Marlon Williams being the most notable Knight to opt out of the bowl game to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, head coach Josh Heupel said he expects a near fully healthy roster on Tuesday night of those available. 

Gabriel and company will have their hands full with the Cougar defense, which ranks ninth in the FBS, allowing just 309 yards per game. In fact, the most points they've given up this season was 26 to Houston back in October. 

Something will have to give but recent history tells that the Knights will have to adjust to the stiff test. Facing another top ranked defense in Cincinnati on Nov. 21, UCF recorded only 359 yards of offense, the only time they had lower than 400 in any game this season. 

UCF quarterback coach Joey Halzle said that BYU has a physical defense and that they have to be ready to play.

"You can tell they're designed, they want to come and smash your run game and then play over the top on the back end," Halzle said. "They're a sound defense. They're not going to make mistakes, they're not going to do anything to cost themselves a game. They're going to be where they're supposed to be and they're going to force you to earn everything you get."

Meanwhile, UCF will be containing quarterback Zach Wilson. Wilson has burst onto the scene this season, throwing for 3,274 yards with 30 touchdowns and three interceptions. 

Wilson has been electric for the Cougars and has been one of the top Heisman Trophy contenders throughout the season. His true calling card has been his ability to make something out of nothing, which Heupel said is what makes Wilson special. 

"He is smart, he understands exactly what he's doing and he gets his eyes in the right place. His body is in the right position, he's accurate," Heupel said. "When it's off schedule he can make plays with his feet and his arm. He's got elite arm talent and obviously that's why he's viewed so highly by the next level."

While Wilson has commanded the headlines with his play, it's been easy to overlook the season of running back Tyler Allgeier.

The redshirt sophomore has taken advantage of being the primary tailback, rushing for 957 yards and 12 scores on 7.3 yards per carry, a clip that is good for fourth in the FBS among running backs with at least 100 carries. 

Allgeier figured to have a juicy matchup against a Knights defense that has given up 190 rushing yards per game on the season. UCF had trouble stopping the run in a 58-46 win against USF on Black Friday, allowing the Bulls to rack up 242 yards on the ground. This came despite USF having the 80th ranked rushing offense in the nation. 

Aiming to shut down the Cougars is a UCF defense that ranks 117th in the FBS but has shown a propensity to create takeaways with 22 on the season, tied for second in the FBS. UCF also got to the quarterback lately after a slow start to the season in getting the pass rush to come alive.

Sophomore defensive lineman Tre'Mon Morris-Brash leads the way with three and a half of the 25 sacks that the Knights have. 

The Knights will look to penetrate the trenches against a BYU offensive line that comes into Tuesday with only 11 sacks given up. 

UCF defensive line coach Shane Burnham said that BYU's experience helps them keep things together up front. 

"Lot of maturity and experience up front. Older guys, you know, based on some of their life experience and where they are on the offensive line," Burnham said. "Older, physical, lot of starts, so I think there's a lot of communication there and that they've played together a lot over the years."

As this unique season comes to end after Tuesday night, Heupel said he is fortunate that his team gets to go to battle one last time. 

"Being inside the state of Florida, a bunch of our players families will have the opportunity to come to the game," Heupel said. "And for our players, it's been a long haul to get to this point and they're excited about this opportunity and still have a chance to get home for Christmas too."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.