The fifth annual Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl will take place on Friday night under the roof at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., as Central Florida battles with Ball State (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Outside of two slip ups to Tulsa, George O’Leary’s team has not lost since Sept. 29., scoring 41.3 points per game in the process. Quarterback Blake Bortles has been hot, connecting on 70-of-128 passes for 912 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions over his last five games. Senior running back Latavius Murray has also come on strong, after missing three games he has run for 927 yards and 13 scores over his last eight outings.
The Knights’ backfield duo will attack a Ball State defense that ranks 103rd nationally in rushing defense and 106th in total defense.
Ball State has won six straight entering Friday’s game, although Pete Lembo’s team is doing it in spite of its defense (as alluded to above). The Cardinals allow 31.5 points per game (89th nationally) and has managed to rip off half a dozen consecutive wins despite allowing 25.7 points per game during the streak.
Ball State’s offense has scored 31 points or more in 11 games this year. Northern Illinois is the lone MAC team to compile more yardage than Pete Lembo’s team this fall. Sophomore running back Jahwan Edwards trigers the Ball State offense with 125 rushes for 786 yards (6.29 ypc) and nine touchdowns over the second half of the season.
Central Florida makes its return to the postseason after a one year absence, while Lembo guides Ball State to its first bowl game since 2008, when the Cardinals started 12-0 but lost its last two games in Brady Hoke’s final season.