It’s not a New Year’s Six Bowl, like the previous three seasons. But it’s a bowl game.
Despite a mid-season stretch in which it lost five of seven, the Florida Gators (6-6) are headed to the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl, per the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi. They will face the University of Central Florida Knights with kick-off set for 7 p.m. from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. After the firing of head coach Dan Mullen last month, special teams coordinator Greg Knox will once again serve as interim head coach; Knox coached the Gators to a 24-21 win over rival Florida State in the season finale. Recently-hired new head coach Billy Napier will not be a part of the bowl game, as he and his new staff focus on recruitment and next season.
Following that win over FSU, Knox would not commit to either Anthony Richardson or Emory Jones as the Gators’ starting quarterback for the bowl game. Richardson was banged up on the first action he saw against the Noles. After Jones threw three interceptions, Richardson returned and immediately led three scoring drives. On the season, Jones has appeared in all 12 games, throwing for 2,500 yards and 19 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Jones has rushed for 696 yards and four touchdowns. Richardson has appeared in eight games, throwing for 529 yards and throwing for six touchdowns to three interceptions, while adding 401 yards and three rushing scores.
Dameon Pierce leads the way for the Gators on offense, rushing for 517 yards and 12 touchdowns. Malik Davis (401 yards, four touchdowns) and Nay’Quan Wright (326 yards, touchdown) round out the room, although Wright suffered a gruesome injury against the Noles.
This isn’t the first time Florida and UCF have been linked, but it may be the best opportunity for the teams to meet until a three-game series kicks off in 2024 in the Swamp. At 7-5, the Knights finished the year tied with Miami for the best college football record in Florida. The Gators held onto a win over Florida State in the final game of the season and some players took to Twitter to claim that they were still the elite program in Florida.
This could be the last time Florida has a chance to bully its little brother while UCF is still in the group of five. The Knights will be in the Big 12 by 2024, so why not give them the shot they’ve been asking for since claiming a national championship (technically the Colley-Matrix named them champs, I’m just saying)?