The No. 8 UCF Knights pursuit of perfection will come to the desert when they collide with the No. 11 LSU Tigers at the 2019 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium on New Year’s Day.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity that our football team has earned. You know, playing in the Fiesta Bowl is a great honor.” UCF head coach Josh Heupel said. “I have tremendous respect for LSU, their program, and their football team this year, and we’re excited for the opportunity to go play them.”
With first-year head coach Josh Heupel at the helm, UCF (12-0) capped off a perfect regular season, winning the American Athletic Conference Championship for the second consecutive year. LSU is looking to snap the Knights 25-game win streak, which is the longest active streak in FBS.
UCF’s explosive offense is set to be tested by an aggressive SEC defense. The Knights rank fifth in the nation in total offense, outscoring their opponents 530-255, and averaged 44 points per game. Facing a brutal schedule, LSU’s defense gave up just 20.9 points per game this season.
In the AAC championship game, quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. went 19-27 for 348 yards, with two passing 2 TDs filling in for Milton.
“He performed extremely well,” Heupel said about Mack Jr. “He did some things early in the football game that he would like to have back but continued to have poise, great confidence in himself. Our coaching staff and players around him have confidence in him.”
As for LSU (9-3), this will be the Tigers’ first Fiesta Bowl appearance in school history. LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron and company will be looking for the team’s first 10-win season since 2013.
“This is where our team wanted to go. When the possibilities of coming up to certain bowls came up, in fact, our team wanted to go to Fiesta Bowl,” Orgeron said. “We have complete respect for UCF. We’re going to be highly-motivated. We’re not happy the way the season ended the last game. Our guys are going to be ready to play.”
LSU’s marquee wins this season include victories over No. 5 Georgia, 36-16, and No. 19 Mississippi State, 19-3. The Tigers also defeated Miami and Auburn during a time when both teams were ranked in the top 10.
This marks the first time since 2000 an SEC school will play in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Tigers defensive back unit is among the nation’s most lethal. LSU’s defense ranks 10th in the nation with 16 interceptions. The Knights will have to look out for LSU cornerback Greedy Williams who has two interceptions this season and is a semi-finalist for the Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back. LSU Safety Grant Delpit leads the team with five interceptions this season.
“Through the years having seen LSU, they’re going to be long and athletic. They’re going to run really well. They’re going to be powerful and explosive up front,” Heupel said. “They pose a lot of issues defensively.”
Undefeated, high-powered UCF. Gritty LSU. The stage is officially set for the 48th Annual Fiesta Bowl.
“What an honor for our football team. The team deserves the very best reward at the end of the season that is possible. We feel we got that in the Fiesta Bowl,” Orgeron said. “What a prestigious bowl. What a prestigious matchup on New Year’s Day, New Year’s Day Six Bowl against UCF. Coach Heupel has done a tremendous job. They have a 25-game winning streak. This will be a challenge for our football team. Great matchup.”