AutoNation Cure Bowl: UCF Knights vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves
Date: Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
Location: Camping World Stadium | Orlando, Florida
Best moment: UCF beat UConn 24-16 for the first time since 2013, then left behind the Civil ConFLiCT trophy that Huskies coach Bob Diaco had made to go to the winner of the game. There really is no better way to throw shade at a program that tried to make up a rivalry where one didn’t exist. Without this win, UCF might not have a bowl opportunity.
Lowest moment: Losing to South Florida is never ideal for the Knights, but the way they lost to Houston might be slightly more painful. UCF had a 24-3 lead early in the second half on the road against the Cougars before letting it all slip away. The Knights had four turnovers in the second half and 29 total yards. Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. took advantage and rallied the Cougars to the 31-24 victory.
Key player: LB Shaquem Griffin. Griffin might be the most remarkable player in college football. Playing with one hand, the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year is tied for No. 10 in the nation in sacks (11) and tackles for loss (19), and he ranks second on the team with 85 total tackles. His twin brother, Shaquill, starts on defense, too. Shaquill leads the team with 12 pass breakups.
Motivation level: High. UCF went 0-12 last season, so getting to six wins and a bowl game under first-year coach Scott Frost is a huge accomplishment. Winning the bowl would be even bigger. It would be the Knights’ first bowl win since Blake Bortles led them to the Fiesta Bowl title over Baylor to end the 2013 season. -- Andrea Adelson
Best moment: The Red Wolves went on the road and whipped an AP-ranked Troy team 35-3. The Trojans came into the game with the Sun Belt’s top scoring offense but committed five turnovers and didn’t reach the end zone once. “They felt like they had already won the Sun Belt title,” Arkansas State defensive end Chris Odom said. “Well, they had to go through us … and we showed them how we play.”
Lowest moment: A 28-23 loss to FCS foe Central Arkansas on Sept. 24 gave the Red Wolves their first 0-4 start in 15 years. The team committed four turnovers, three of which turned into Central Arkansas points. It was Central Arkansas’ first win over an FBS opponent in seven years.
Key player: Ja’Von Rolland-Jones is one sack away from breaking Arkansas State’s school record for career sacks (28). The junior defensive end has 11 of those sacks this season and 16 tackles for loss, leading the Sun Belt in both categories.
Motivation level: Bowl games are always good showcases for schools that don’t get the kind of attention that Power 5 programs get, so you can be assured the Red Wolves will be plenty motivated. This is the sixth consecutive season Arkansas State is bowl eligible and the ninth time in the past 12 years. -- Sam Khan Jr.