Ridaught: Football dominates the holidays

For the next couple of weeks, there will be plenty of opportunities to watch football during the holiday break.

And even though the NFL playoff race is heating up, I’ll only take a look at the college football schedule because there are 41 bowl games from last Friday through Saturday, Jan. 1.

The college football bowl season began on Friday, Dec. 17, as Middle Tennessee edged Toledo, 31-24, in the Bahamas Bowl.

Later that day, Coastal Carolina defeated Northern Illinois, 47-41, in the Cure Bowl in Orlando. It was a wild game that ended at the 4-yard line.

It was also Coastal Carolina’s first bowl victory.

There were six bowl games last Saturday, including Louisiana-Lafayette, which was playing its first game without head coach Billy Napier, who left for the Florida job following the Sun Belt championship game. ULL defeated Marshall in the New Orleans Bowl.

On Tuesday night there are a pair of bowl games (Kent State vs. Wyoming and UTSA vs. San Diego State), one game on Wednesday (Missouri vs. Army), and two bowl games on Thursday, including Florida vs. UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl at 7 p.m.

It will mark just the third meeting all-time between the Knights and the Gators, who lead the series 2-0. It’s the first time that they have met on a neutral field or in the postseason.

Florida, which is making its fourth straight bowl appearance and seventh in the last eight years, is 24-22 all time in bowl games but they’ve won 10 of their last 14 since 2006.

Expect the Gators, who are seventh in the FBS with 5.4 rushing yards per carry, to try and establish a ground game early.

Dameon Pierce (2018-21) is on pace to finish in the UF top 10 in two categories.

He needs just one rushing touchdown to move into a tie with Kelvin Taylor (2013-15) and Jeff Demps (2008-11) for 10th-place for the most rushing touchdowns in a career at Florida (23). Or two to tie Larry Smith (24), who played for the Gators from 1966-68, for ninth. 

Pierce has 12 rushing touchdowns this season, leaving him one shy of moving into a tie for 5th-place all-time at UF with Kelvin Taylor, Fred Taylor, and Emmitt Smith. He could move into a tie for second (Smith, Tim Tebow, and Buford Long have 14) with two rushing touchdowns on Thursday.

Florida won the previous meeting against UCF, 42-0, on Sept. 9, 2006, in Gainesville.

Here is the complete bowl game schedule and results. Enjoy the games.

There will not be a sports newsletter on Friday due to the holiday. We will resume it on Monday, Dec. 27.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Be safe.

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