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UCF Knights vs University of Connecticut Huskies: Preview, Odds, Start Time, TV, Radio, Prediction

It’s the “Civil Conflict!” Or the “ConFLiCT!” Whatever. Get ready for the AAC’s best non-rivalry rivalry.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Start Time: Saturday, October 22 at Noon EST.

Location: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut.

TV/Streaming: ESPN News and WatchESPN.

Radio/Live Stats: 96.9 FM for radio and over here for live stats.

Odds: UCF opened a two point favorite and has now moved to a 4.5 point favorite.

Records: UCF is 3-3 (1-1 AAC) and UConn is 3-4 (1-3 AAC). Say this for the Huskies though: all three conferences losses come against the three best teams in the AAC: Navy, Houston, and USF.

All-Time Series: The game that UConn Head Coach dubbed the Civil Conflict (and then later, the “ConFLiCT”) stands at 2-1, UConn. It is of course the most important rivalry in college sports a divisional football game that is played annually.

But we at Underdog Dynasty have embraced the absurdity of a “rivalry” without geographic proximity or shared cultural stakes. And we’ll continue doing that. So it was disappointing to hear Diaco downplay it:

“We’re excited to play,” Diaco said when asked about the Conflict. “I’ve had enough of the conversation externally, so I’m not going to get into all that business.”

Dude. You came up with this. You made a trophy. And a countdown clock. You’re stuck with this thing now.

UCF Outlook: UCF had Homecoming ruined last week. Maybe tomorrow, they can ruin UConn’s.

The Knights endured one of the most disappointing and shocking losses in recent program history last week, leading Temple for all but one second of the game. Couple that with the loss to Maryland in the second overtime and the Knights are maddeningly close to being 5-1. But at 3-3, the Knights need the win here if they hope to establish themselves as a better than middling AAC team. With the exception of games against Houston and USF, every game remaining on the schedule is very winnable - but let’s not have to sweet about getting bowl eligible, huh?

Freshman QB McKenzie Milton has the potential for a great game against the Huskies, who have shown that they are vulnerable to a dual threat quarterback. Last week, USF’s Quentin Flowers threw for 213 yards (and two touchdowns) and rushed for 157 yards (and three touchdowns) against UConn. And the week before that, Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. rocked the Huskies with 389 passing yards (and three touchdowns) and 65 rushing yards (and two touchdowns). If Milton can play like he did the first half against Temple, watch out.

Unfortunately the Knights are down a couple players following the Temple game. Starting left guard Tyler Hudanick was rolled on from behind by a Temple player and suffered an injury to his left leg. His season is done. He’ll be replaced by Chester Brown (top of this week’s depth chart at the position) and Tate Hernly and Micah Anderson may rotate in. Sophomore wide receiver Tristan Payton is suspended for conduct issues and will not travel. Payton’s contributions this year have been modest – he has six catches for 55 yards and one touchdown.

UConn Outlook: The Huskies also have that “need to get back on track” feeling. The UConn defense was shredded in back-to-back weeks against Houston (giving up 42 points and 540 yards) and USF (giving up 42 points and 529 yards).

But UConn’s front seven may still cause problems for the Knights. They’re the strength of the defense and generally do well stopping the run. We saw against Temple how badly the Knights perform when the run game is suffocated, as it was in the second half. If the Huskies can muster similar success, it could easily be another painful game for UCF.

But they’ll need to scrape together more offense to overcome a Knights defense that has been solid to very good for substantial stretches (not so much when they’re stranded on the field for as long as they were against Michigan and Temple). The Huskies have yet to score more than 27 points in a game.

UCF fans should keep an eye on Arkeel Newsome who has been a playmaker for UConn. He had two impressive touchdowns last week against the Bulls: a 70-yard catch from QB Bryant Shirreffs and a four yard touchdown run in which he dragged USF defenders into the end zone. He finished with 162 yards from scrimmage. Frankly, the UConn staff needs to involve him more in their game plan. As an outsider looking in, Newsome seems underutilized.

Prediction: I’ll take the Knights to win on the strength of Milton as a dual threat. But we’ve seen enough dysfunction out of the Knights recently that I expect it to be touch-and-go.