The Florida Gators will enter their Week 20 series, the season finale, as underdogs. This marks the first time the Gators will not be favored all season, even after having faced the streaking Seminoles in Week 12. The upcoming contest between the No. 4 Knights and the No. 9 Gators will likely decide which team in the South Atlantic division comes out on top for the playoffs – and to do so, both teams will have to bypass No. 6 Florida State. The logic of this ranking, or the lack thereof, not only fails to identify the better teams by favoring division leaders, it also somewhat contradicts itself. The No. 4 team, at their current pace, isn’t even a lock for a playoff spot.
That entire description of the division’s current standing shows just how confusing the club baseball ranking system appears to be. It also demonstrates that the impending matchup may not be the UCF-favored contest that the NCBA poll might lead us to believe. In fact, the Florida Gators aren’t merely on the same playing level as the Knights – they’re clearly the better team from top to bottom.
When the Gators play host to the Knights in Week 20, it is the University of Central Florida that should be prepared to beat the odds. Heading into the series, the two teams have very similar pitching rankings. Both the Gators and Knights have an undisputed ace that will anchor their respective teams in the contest, just as they have done all season. For Florida, that man is Tyler Wills; for UCF, it’s Chris Williams. Both boast stellar ERAs. Although the overall numbers favor the Knights pitching staff, the margin is slim. What could very well win the game for the Gators, however, is the insurmountable advantage they own on offense.
The UCF has had a solid offensive season, nearing a team batting average of .300. But the Gators are simply on another level. Between just the three of them, offensive stars Corey Graf, Patrick Pinak, and Zach Zaversnik have almost as many RBI as the entire Knights lineup. Furthermore, even though the Gators have not been known for a power-hitting team this season, the long ball drastically favors Florida in this contest – by a ratio of 11-2. The Gators have accumulated twice the number of doubles and six more triples. Virtually the only friendly offensive statistic for the Knights is stolen bases. Unfortunately for UCF, that alone won’t help a great deal when the Gators are getting on base far more often and are knocking in well more than double their runs, on average.
Bottom line: look for the Gators to win a crucial series.