Members of The Daily Reveille sports staff share their thoughts and score predictions ahead of No. 11 LSU's Fiesta Bowl matchup with No. 8 UCF.
Chris Caldarera | A milestone bowl game
Bowl games are a great way for programs to cap off their seasons on a high note and begin to build momentum for next season. This year’s Fiesta Bowl represents a chance for LSU to achieve the school’s first 10-win football season since 2013 and finish the 2018 season as a top 10 team.
Both accomplishments would bode well for the Tigers heading into the offseason, especially with such low expectations for the team this year.
However, this year’s Fiesta Bowl could also be a catalyst that changes the future landscape of college football world.
While the College Football Playoff format always had its critics, the noise surrounding the FBS postseason is slowly reaching a fever pitch. Should the playoff be expanded? Should the format stay the same? Should college football even have a playoff format?
The UCF Knights lie at the heart of this debate. After an undefeated regular season last year, the Knights defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl which led the team to a self-bestowed national championship.
If the Knights complete another undefeated season by defeating LSU in the Fiesta Bowl, expect fans to look back on the 2018 Fiesta Bowl as the milestone game that changed the college football postseason.
Prediction: LSU 38, UCF 31
Kennedi Landry | LSU's best bet is in its offense
When somebody thinks about LSU, a powerful and dynamic defense — complete with quick and agile defensive backs and a physical front seven — is usually the first thing that comes to mind.
But with a depleted secondary and defensive line, LSU must look to quarterback Joe Burrow and the offense to secure a win for the Tigers.
The LSU offense is very capable of putting up the numbers needed to win big games, they did so against Georgia, but the Tigers are unusually going to need some help on the other side of the field compete with the fast-paced UCF offense.
For the first time in what seems like years, I don't have confidence that LSU's defense has what it takes to stop its opponent, and somebody is going to need to step up in order for the Tigers to reach 10 wins for the first time since 2013.
Prediction: LSU 28, UCF 33
Brandon Adam | No Fiesta in Arizona for LSU
How do teams win games in college football with four cornerbacks? They don’t. Especially against a team that hasn’t lost a game in two years.
People can say, "Oh, UCF isn’t that good. They haven’t played anyone." No team wins 25 straight games if they aren’t good. UCF is good, and people are going to be reminded of how good they are in the Fiesta Bowl against LSU.
The one thing UCF has going against them is a devastating knee injury to starting quarterback McKenzie Milton in November that will hold him out of the game. However, backup Darriel Mack, Jr. was impressive in Milton’s place in the AAC Championship game. Still, LSU has four cornerbacks available to play. That is a disaster in the making and why UCF wins.
Prediction: UCF 38, LSU 34
Jacob Beck | The Golden Knights will have LSU's undivided attention, unlike last year
The UCF Knights will face another SEC team this year, but this time it won't be a disinterested Auburn team that had beaten Alabama and Georgia in the regular season but then got manhandled by Bulldogs in the SEC Championship, missing the playoff.
LSU will be fully invested in this game, after finishing 9-3 and exceeding nearly every expectation set for them. Expect Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire to have big games against a porous UCF rush defense that ranks 117 out 129 teams in the FBS.
While UCF will more than likely be able to move the ball on an LSU defense that is riddled with injuries, suspensions, and players sitting out for the NFL draft, this will still be the best defense they have faced all year, and the Tigers will eek out a 10-point win late.
Prediction: LSU 34, UCF 24
Jiwa and Mike the Orangutans | Controversy?
The Fiesta Bowl has a tradition where the orangutans at the Phoenix Zoo pick the winner of the annual game.
This year, Jiwa, a four-year old orangutan, was set to make his first pick after his father Mike did it for years. Zookeepers say Mike has around a 50 percent success rating.
But Jiwa seemed to have stage fright for his first time. He took a quick look at the items meant represent each team set out for him, grabbed the paper plate on LSU's "fan," which was held together with peanut butter, and retreated back into his hiding spot.
The zookeepers affirmed that Jiwa grabbing the plate was not sufficient interaction to declare LSU the winner.
Because of Jiwa's struggle, Mike, a 30-year old orangutan, made the choice for another year, but it was a controversial one (4:55). Mike grabbed both items, but grabbed UCF's first before ripping apart LSU's item.
The zookeepers believed that Mike declared UCF the winner of the 2019 Fiesta Bowl.