Skip to content

Gasparilla Bowl Betting Guide: Central Florida Knights vs. Florida Gators

Rare intrastate pairing 15 years in the making

It would be a massive understatement to suggest that Florida schools from big-time conferences haven’t been lining up to schedule the Central Florida Knights.

Miami played UCF in 2008 and 2009, Florida had games against the Knights in 1999 and 2006 while Florida State’s only meeting with UCF came in 1995.

central florida knights vs florida gators week 14 ncaaf 2021
Mark Brown / Getty Images via AFP

It has been a disappointing season for both teams in this game. Central Florida was listed by the Las Vegas odds as the No. 2 choice to win the American Athletic Conference title behind only Cincinnati. However, the Knights finished three games in back of Cincinnati and Houston. Florida (+900) trailed only Alabama and Georgia in the preseason odds to win the Southeastern Conference and had +2800 odds to win the national title. It took a win over rival Florida State in the regular-season finale just to make Florida bowl eligible.

Florida threw a scare into Alabama in the 2020 SEC championship game but that didn’t stop a shakeup from taking place. Dan Mullen is now out as the Gators’ head coach and Billy Napier was hired away from Louisiana to take over.

Game: Central Florida (8-4) vs. Florida (6-6)

Location: Raymond James Stadium

Day/Time: Thursday, Dec. 23, 7:00 p.m. ET

Television: ESPN

Central Florida Knights vs Florida Gators Betting Lines

Team Point Spread Moneyline Over/Under
UCF +6½ (-105) +200 55½ (-110o)
Florida -6½ (-115) -240 55½ (-110u)

Central Florida fans fired up about rare meeting with Florida

How big of a deal is this game for the Central Florida fan base? More than 20,000 ticket requests were submitted within 48 hours of the announcement that the Knights would be playing Florida.

Despite losing its top three rushers from a season ago, UCF is ranked in the top 40 nationally with an average of 188.7 yards per game. That number likely would have been even higher if Isaiah Bowser hadn’t missed five games due to injury. Bowser hasn’t played since a Nov. 6 win over Tulane. Johnny Richardson assumed the lead back role, compiling three 100-yard rushing games.

The passing game took a hit when Dillon Gabriel, who threw for 7223 yards and 61 touchdowns over the previous two seasons, went down early in the season. Gabriel threw for 814 yards in three games. UCF averaged only 183 passing yards in the last 10 games after the Gabriel-led offense put up 318 and 381 yards, respectively, with seven touchdown passes in the first two games of the season.

Central Florida has only covered against the college football picks in four of its last 14 games.

Injury Report

Running back Isaiah Bowser (leg) is questionable. Linebacker Bryson Armstrong (knee), defensive lineman Kaila Davis (knee) and running back R.J. Harvey (knee) is out for the season. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel has been out since late September due to a broken clavicle.

Three Players to Watch

Receiver Ryan O’Keefe leads Central Florida with 77 catches and 727 receiving yards. O’Keefe has caught at least five passes in each of the last eight games. Junior linebacker Tatum Bethune has 101 tackles, while senior defensive lineman Big Kat Bryant has 14 tackles for loss and six sacks.

Change at the top for Florida Gators

The season began with such promise for the Florida Gators. After reaching the 2020 SEC title game, the belief is that Florida could be the team that could challenge Alabama and Georgia for SEC supremacy this season.

Those thoughts were only confirmed when Florida made Alabama work to leave Gainesville with a two-point win back in September. However, things fell apart not long after that. The Gators gave up 123 points in losses to Louisiana State, Georgia and South Carolina. Then, the Gators allowed 52 more against a lower-level Samford team.

The Gators finished 11th in scoring defense in the Southeastern Conference. Napier is coming in as the new head coach, but in this game, interim coach Greg Knox continues to call the shots.

Sack leader Zachary Carter opted out of the bowl game while receiver Jacob Copeland and linebacker Mohamoud Diabate have put their names into the transfer portal. Copeland led the Gators with 339 catches and 607 receiving yards while Diabate led the team with 89 tackles. Copeland has expressed his desire to play in the bowl game.

Florida has failed to cover against the college football odds in its last six games.

Injury Report

Quarterback Anthony Richardson (knee) and Carter won’t play in the bowl game. Carter made the decision to opt out after declaring for the 2022 NFL draft. He led the Gators with 11 tackles for loss.

Three Players to Watch

Quarterback Emory Jones has thrown for 2563 yards with 19 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. He is also the leading rusher for the Florida Gators with 696 yards. Junior linebacker Brenton Cox has 10½ tackles for loss. Sophomore safety Rashad Torrence has 81 tackles and a team-leading three interceptions.

Betting on the Game

It will be interesting to see if Florida gives some of its younger players more playing time as the Gators prepare for a new era with Napier taking over as coach.

Freshmen and sophomores got plenty of work on defense for Florida and that trend could continue.

UCF has displayed the ability to make plays in the backfield with 83 tackles for loss and 34 sacks, but the Knights also have allowed 75 tackles for loss.

The scores and odds total have gone over in four of the last five games when Central Florida is the underdog.

The total has also gone over in seven of Florida’s last eight games against American Athletic Conference teams.

Central Florida has lost 17 of its last 20 games against SEC teams.

Related Tags


Did you find this article interesting?

Comments (0)