UCF has been rewarded with a bowl game in its home city just one year after an 0-12 season. The Knights will play Arkansas State, the co-champion of the Sun Belt, in the AutoNation Cure Bowl. While UCF has been up-and-down in recent years, Arkansas State is playing in a bowl game for the sixth straight year. The Red Wolves are the only FBS team to win at least a share of five conference titles over the last six seasons.
Both teams' defenses are excellent at pressuring the quarterback. Arkansas State led the Sun Belt in sacks this season (37) thanks to defensive ends Chris Odom and Ja'Von Rolland-Jones. Odom (12.5 sacks) and Rolland-Jones (11.5) combined for 24 sacks. They are the only pair of teammates in the FBS to rank in the top ten in sacks. Rolland-Jones is one sack away from breaking the school record for career sacks (28). His 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss this season led the Sun Belt in both categories.
UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin led the AAC this season in both sacks (11) and disrupted dropbacks (18). Disrupted dropbacks include sacks, interceptions, batted passes and passes defended. Griffin's 11 sacks rank 10th in the FBS, joining Arkansas State's Odom and Rolland-Jones in the top 10. What is most remarkable about Griffin is that he plays with one hand. His twin brother, defensive back Shaquill Griffin, leads the team with 12 pass breakups.
UCF is just the sixth team to make a bowl game after a winless season of eight games or more. Coincidentally, the 2005 Knights were the most recent team to do so. ESPN's Football Power Index gives the Knights a 64 percent chance to win on Saturday.