Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Follow us on Twitter! @OS_Report
On New Years Day when most of college football’s attention was set on the Rose Bowl between Michigan State and Stanford, my intrigue landed elsewhere. My eyes were locked on that night to watch the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl as the heavily favored Baylor Bears were set to take it to the Central Florida Golden Knights. It wasn’t necessarily the high-octane offense of Baylor that had my interest, but more of what Blake Bortles could do. The 6’4” 230 pound junior quarterback from UCF had quietly had a great season and even though most of college football still didn’t know who he was, one of the top-rated quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft had my attention.
I got my first taste of Bortles last season when he and Storm Johnson almost defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Shoe. I left that game thinking that the Buckeyes looked like crap, but who was this Bortles kid? Fast forward to this past October when I was covering high school football in northeast Ohio and I come back to the television station to see Bortles and his Golden Knights taking down Teddy Bridgewater and the undefeated Louisville Cardinals. At that point I remembered who Blake Bortles was and he was officially on my radar.
Coming into the Fiesta Bowl, Bortles had recorded 3,581 yards with 25 touchdowns through the air and even garnered 272 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. He may have been getting respect from Todd McShay, Mel Kiper Jr. and NFL Scouts, but most of the college football world didn’t know whom this guy was. Hell, his girlfriend is more popular on Google than Bortles is!
Some of his fellow college football athletes may have mistaken him for just another guy, but against Baylor, the barely recruited junior from Oviedo, Florida showed college football exactly who Blake Bortles is. Bortles helped put UCF up 14-0 early in the 1st quarter and the Golden Knights never looked back. The underdog in Central Florida defeated the Baylor Bears 52-42 and Bortles left Tempe, Arizona a happy man with 301 passing yards, 93 rushing yards and a combined four touchdowns. Not bad for a group of underdogs out of the American Athletic Conference (trust me, the AAC is real, I checked).
If you listened to the NFL scouts this season, they liked Bortles’ size, strength, intelligence and ceiling. All that meant to the rest of the college football landscape was just another name on a sheet of paper. When you play in the American Athletic Conference, you don’t receive much national exposure and people just think that you play a bunch of nobodies, so you must be a nobody as well. That may be true for some, but after hanging tough with South Carolina and defeating Louisville, Penn State and Baylor, Bortles has proven to the country that this “nobody” can play with anybody and apparently has pretty solid NFL potential.
I am not saying that Bortles is the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but I will say that I like his chances as a successful NFL quarterback. Flying under the radar all season long and not receiving the respect that he deserved all went out the window on New Year’s Day as Bortles helped UCF beat the odds and out battle Baylor. So, if you didn’t know who Blake Bortles was before the Fiesta Bowl, you do now.