Last Updated Dec 22, 2021, 1:00 PM

Gasparilla Bowl Picks, Predictions and Odds: UCF vs. Florida

Dec. 23, 2021
Jonathan Willis
VI Betting Expert

A battle of Florida schools takes place in this year's Gasparilla Bowl as the UCF Knights face the Florida Gators. Opening kick is set for 7:00 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Score Prediction

UCF 24, Florida 21

Best Bets

UCF +7 (-105) at FanDuel

Gasparilla Bowl Predictions

The Gasparilla Bowl is going to be one of the best pre-New Year’s Eve bowl games. A sellout crowd will see the Florida Gators take on the UCF Knights. Florida has largely avoided playing Sunshine State rivals not named Florida State for most of the last three decades, so there will be a lot of UCF fans in black and gold ready to see the Knights take on the Gators for the first time in 15 years.

This should be a low-scoring game. UCF hasn’t been able to move the ball well since Dillon Gabriel was hurt against Louisville, as freshman Mikey Keene has not been as effective in Gus Malzahn’s offense. Meanwhile, Florida’s offense won’t be as explosive without Anthony Richardson, and the absence of a few key players will give the Knights a real chance to win on Thursday night in Tampa.

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Gasparilla Bowl Betting Odds

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Gasparilla Bowl Betting Resources

  • Matchup: AAC vs. SEC
  • Date: Thursday, December 23, 2021
  • Venue: Raymond James Stadium
  • Location: Tampa, Florida
  • TV-Time: ESPN, 7:00 p.m. ET

UCF Knights Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 8-4
  • ATS: 4-8
  • O/U: 7-4-1

Emory Jones will reportedly transfer out of Florida after this game. However, Jones will start under center for the Gators in the Gasparilla Bowl. Anthony Richardson underwent surgery and will be unavailable, so Jones won’t have to share snaps barring something bad. He is a solid dual-threat quarterback that threw for over 2,500 yards and led the team in rushing (697 yards and 5.2 YPC), but he was very mistake prone and tossed 13 interceptions.

Florida runs the ball very well and averages 5.3 YPC. Jones and Richardson have been a big part of this success, but Dameon Pierce has shined in his own right with 517 yards (5.9 YPC) and 12 touchdowns. Malik Davis is averaging 4.7 YPC too.

The Gators aren’t expected to have top receiver Jacob Copeland as he has entered the transfer portal. That deprives Jones of his favorite deep threat too, so Justin Shorter could be the top target against UCF.

This defense has been much maligned. Florida ranked outside the top 40 in Defensive SP+, and the Gators won’t have standout defensive end Zachary Carter or leading tackler Mohamoud Diabate for the Gasparilla Bowl.

Florida Gators Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 6-6
  • ATS: 3-9
  • O/U: 7-5

Mikey Keene has played well for a freshman. Keene has completed 63.6% of his passes for 6.3 YPA with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He isn’t a runner like Gabriel was though, and we don’t see him stretch the field much in this offense.

The Knights are expected to have Isaiah Bowser healthy for this game. Bowser is a bruiser that ranks second on UCF in rushing with 548 yards (4.4 YPC) and is the goal line and short yardage back. Johnny Richardson is the explosive back and leads the team with 693 yards and is averaging 6.9 YPC.

Ryan O’Keefe is the leading receiver, but he is largely an underneath threat as he is averaging 9.4 YPR. Brandon Johnson is the other receiver to watch for the Knights with 38 receptions for 565 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year. Jaylon Robinson has been injured much of the season and might not play in the Gasparilla Bowl.

UCF has an excellent secondary. The Knights are allowing just 6.1 YPA, and Divaad Wilson is a safety that will be playing on Sunday. Big Kat Bryant is a quality pass rusher, and he was a First Team All-AAC selection.

Inside the Stats - UCF Knights

  • Record: 8-4
  • VI Ranking: 58
  • Points Scored: 386
  • Points Allowed: 302
  • PS/G: 32.2 (39th)
  • PA/G: 25.2 (55th)

Inside the Stats - Florida Gators

  • Record: 6-6
  • VI Ranking: 60
  • Points Scored: 382
  • Points Allowed: 319
  • PS/G: 31.8 (42nd)
  • PA/G: 26.6 (73rd)

Key Players to Watch

  • UCF: Mikey Keene - QB (159/250, 1,586 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT)
  • UCF: Ryan O'Keefe - WR (77 catches, 727 yards, 6 TD)
  • UF: Emory Jones - QB (209/309, 2,562 yards, 19 TD, 13 iNT)
  • UF: Dameon Pierce - RB (87 carries, 517 yards, 12 TD)

Gasparilla Bowl Betting Conclusion

Florida won’t be as dangerous without many of its top players during the regular season, and this is a Gators’ team that has under performed all year. They have yet to cover a game outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, and they won’t start now.

Gasparilla Bowl Betting Trends

  • Florida has failed to cover the spread in nine of its last 12 games.
  • Florida has failed to cover the spread in five straight games away from Gainesville.
  • Florida has failed to cover the spread in eight of its last 10 games when playing as the favorite.
  • UCF has failed to cover the spread in four of its last five games away from Orlando.

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