Georgia Tech vs. UCF: Gasparilla Bowl 2023 preview and selection

At the weekend's conclusion, there will be one more game in the college football bowl season. Two Power Five teams will be playing one other on Friday. The 2023 Gasparilla Bowl Game pits UCF, fresh off their Big 12 first season, against Georgia Tech, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

UCF had a perfect start to the season but lost five games in a row in the middle of the season, casting doubt on their bowl eligibility. The Knights, nevertheless, rallied in the stretch to earn six wins, including an unexpected victory against Oklahoma State, as part of a three-game winning streak.

Tech was 6-6 on the season, good enough for fourth place in the ACC. They were 3-2 in the last month and lost to rival Georgia in the championship game, but they had two upset victories—one over then-ranked North Carolina and another over Miami.

Despite ranking 46th nationally in passing, the Knights are 5th in college football in running, averaging 233.2 yards per game. That production relies on Doak Walker Award finalist RJ Harvey. On the year, he ran for 1,296 yards and 16 touchdowns at 6.1 yards per carry.

The Yellow Jackets' biggest vulnerability is just opposite UCF's biggest offensive threat. In terms of running defense, Georgia Tech is 128th in the country. The Yellow Jackets give up about 226 yards per game, 28 total rushing touchdowns, and more than 5.21 yards per run.

UCF's biggest offensive danger is also the Yellow Jackets' biggest vulnerability. With 28 total rushing touchdowns, about 226 yards per game allowed on the ground, and opponents averaging more than 5.21 yards per carry, Georgia Tech's running defense ranks 128th in the country.

Haynes King, like Heisman winner Jayden Daniels, is one of two FBS players with at least 2,600 yards throwing and 600 yards running. John Rhys Plumlee is another dual threat, ranking 3rd with 473 running yards and 2nd with 5 touchdowns. 

These two squads aren't exactly known for their defensive prowess, but they're both armed with quarterbacks who can throw the ball both ways and are guided by risk-taking coaches. The Gasparilla Bowl this year has the makings of a thrilling bowl clash.

However, one of those protections is far less effective than the other. When it comes to stopping the run, UCF's major weapon, Georgia Tech is dead last in the country, and the Yellow Jackets' defensive success percentage is 129th. 

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