- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

Central Florida (9-3, 7-1 American) vs. North Carolina State (7-5, 3-5 ACC), 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Line: UCF by 2.

Series Record: Tied 1-1.


UCF has chance to finish with at least 10 wins for the fourth time in five seasons. The Knights, co-champions of the American Athletic Conference, played in a BCS bowl for the first time a year ago, beating Baylor in the Fiesta. North Carolina State went 3-9, including 0-8 in the ACC, in its first season under coach Dave Doeren in 2013. Wolfpack won three of past four to become bowl eligible, and beating UCF would represent another step forward under their second-year coach.


North Carolina State QB Jacoby Brissett threw for 2,344 yards, 22 touchdowns and five interceptions, and the transfer from Florida also rushed for 498 yards and three TDs. In UCF, he’s facing a stout defense that ranks in the top five nationally in fewest yards allowed per game and pass efficiency, rushing and scoring defense.


Central Florida: QB Justin Holman didn’t begin the season as a starter, but he’s proven to be more than a capable successor to Blake Bortles, who left the Knights after his junior season to become the third overall pick in last spring’s NFL draft. His 51-yard Hail Mary gave UCF a 32-30 victory over East Carolina, along with a share of the AAC title. AAC defensive player of the year Jacoby Glenn anchors a solid secondary.

North Carolina State: RB Shadrach Thornton has rushed for 811 yards and nine touchdowns, and WR Bo Hines has been a dependable target for Brissett with 42 receptions for 537 yards and one TD. DEs Art Norman and Mike Rose lead the Wolfpack in sacks and tackles for loss with 6 1/2 and 14, respectively.


The game is played at Tropicana Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. … UCF is making its third appearance in St. Petersburg. The Knights lost to Rutgers 45-24 in 2009 and beat Ball State 38-17 in 2012. … Coach George O’Leary is 81-59 in 11 seasons at UCF, which is trying to finish with a bowl win for the third straight year. … It’s been a rollercoaster season for N.C. State, which started 4-0 before dropping its first four in ACC play. The Wolfpack went 3-1 down the stretch and feel good about where’s they’re headed under Doeren.

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