Gasparilla Bowl Prediction: Motivated UCF to Upset Favored Florida in Tight Tilt in Tampa

Gasparilla Bowl Prediction: Motivated UCF to Upset Favored Florida in Tight Tilt in Tampa

The Gasparilla Bowl features a rare matchup between Sunshine State schools UCF and Florida. It will mark only the third meeting between the two schools and the first since 2006.

This matchup sees both teams looking to end on a high note after failing to meet preseason expectations. Things got so bad in Gainesville that they fired coach Dan Mullen before the season ended.

At UCF, the Knights were hoping to contend for the AAC title in Gus Malzahn’s first season. Those hopes were toast by mid-season, but they did finish strong and go into the bowl game with some momentum.

Motivation is always a tough thing to handicap at this time of the season, but you have to like UCF from that perspective. Their administration lobbied for this matchup and sticking it to the Gators would be a nice way to end the season.

Gasparilla Bowl Matchup Info and Betting Odds

Matchup Information

  • Game Matchup: UCF Knights (8-4, 5-3 AAC) vs Florida Gators (6-6, 2-6 SEC)
  • Date: Thursday, December 23, 2021
  • Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

Betting Odds

  • Spread: UCF +7 (-105), Florida -7 (-115)
  • Moneyline: UCF +225, Florida -275
  • Total: OVER 56.5 (-110), UNDER 56.5 (-110)

Gasparilla Bowl odds are from BetMGM as of Wednesday, December 22, at 6:00 a.m. ET.

Gasparilla Bowl Betting Outlook

In the third game of the season, a loss to Louisville, the Knights lost starting QB Dillon Gabriel to injury on the final play. As a result, true freshman Mikey Keene was immediately thrown into the fire.

Understandably, Keene had some early struggles and did not put up the kind of numbers Gabriel did. But he did settle in as the season progressed, and the Knights won five of their last six games.

Similarly, Florida’s offense performed below expectations, with a quarterback controversy casting a cloud over much of the season. But Emory Jones, who has entered the transfer portal, will start the Gasparilla Bowl with Anthony Richardson out after recently having surgery.

Jones has mostly underwhelmed as a passer, but he does have 697 rushing yards this season. UCF, who has 34 sacks, likes to get after the quarterback. So, that ability to make plays with his feet will come in handy for Jones if he doesn’t negate it with bad decisions. With 13 interceptions to his name this season, that is a legitimate concern.

With Keene learning on the job, UCF needed to rely on its defense, and that unit came through for the most part. Over their final eight games, they allowed 17 points or less six times.

Sure, Cincinnati and SMU did torch UCF’s defense for 50+ points apiece, and Florida’s offense has had some prolific performances this season. But the entire body of work this season does not inspire confidence that the Gators will show up and show out in the Gasparilla Bowl.

Both of these teams were disasters for backers this season. UCF comes in with a 4-8 ATS record. Florida, at 3-9 ATS, is even worse.

Gasparilla Bowl Prediction

UCF 27, Florida 24 (UCF +7)

In this spot, I’m circling back to motivation being a decisive factor. This is a much more meaningful game for the Knights than it is for the Gators, and that will help carry them to the upset win.

By Matt Wiesenfeld

Matt has been an active sports betting content contributor on the web for more than a decade, though new to the Betting News team. His favorite sports to bet are college hoops, college football, and MLB.