2021 Gasparilla Bowl betting is interesting to say the least. Florida (6-6) will be coached by Greg Knox and some of the staff still left over after the firing of Dan Mullen on November 21st. The Gators will also not have electric freshman QB Anthony Richardson who is sitting out this game with a knee injury, while starter Emory Jones is a lame duck who has declared his intentions to enter the transfer protocol after Thursday’s game.
UCF is in a weird spot as well as they play their first game against in-state combatant Florida since their lone meeting back in 2006. This game is being played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, and reportedly sold out rather quickly as residents of the Sunshine State are more eager than expected for a usual bowl game.
Great Opportunity for UCF
It wasn’t pretty when these two teams met up in their last meeting back in 2006, with the Gators winning 42-0 behind Chris Leak and a young dual threat QB Tim Tebow who had 62 yards on the ground. New Knights coach Gus Malzahn would love to get a bowl game win in his first year with the program, not just for the in-state foe factor but also because of his familiarity with UF after spending 2013-2020 with Auburn as SEC opponents.
UCF has moved on from Dillon Gabriel, the talented but injury prone QB who had 29 and 32 TD passes the last two seasons and had 9 TDs through three games this season before being lost for the year with a collarbone injury. Gabriel is transferring to UCLA, and true freshman Mikey Keene has stepped in to throw 16 TDs to 6 INTs this season.
This definitely isn’t the Josh Heupel UCF offense, the former UCF coach that left the program to go to take over at Tennessee in the offseason. The Knights ranked #2 in the country with 585.6 total yards/game last season including 373.0 ypg through the air, but those numbers are down to 400.3 and 211.3 this year respectively.
Gators Should be Motivated
Florida has played in the Gator, Peach, and Cotton bowls the last three seasons so is a December 23rd matchup in 2021 Gasparilla Bowl betting a disappointment to a group of heavily recruited players? Normally that would usually be the case, but Knox is motivated in a rare head coaching opportunity and it never hurts to play an opponent from in the state – miniature bragging rights so to speak.
The Gators still definitely have a challenge in this matchup, especially with Anthony Richardson (930 total yards, 9 total TDs in 7 games) out with a knee injury and defensive leader Zachary Carter (7.5 sacks) opting out as he prepares for the NFL draft.
That leaves QB Emory Jones in the spotlight under center even though he has already stated his intentions to enter the transfer portal after this game. There are even rumors that Jones could end up transferring to Gasparilla Bowl opponent Central Florida after a 19 TD season that also included 13 INTs.
Free 2021 Gasparilla Bowl Betting Pick
UCF doesn’t have the dynamic offense they’ve had in the past couple years under Heupel, but this is still a team that went 5-1 down the stretch and have an SEC battle tested new coach in Malzahn. You can bet the Knights really want this one against an in-state foe, and it’s still unclear just how ‘up’ Gator players are as they await new coach Billy Napier to take over after the game.
UCF 31 – Florida 30
Free Pick: UCF +6.5