Start Time: Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 8 PM EST/ 7 PM CT.
Location: Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando, FL.
TV/Streaming: ESPNews, streaming on WatchESPN.
Radio/Live Stats: 96.9 FM in Orlando and on the Tulsa side, Big Country 99.5. Check over here for live stats.
Betting Line: UCF opened as a 1.5 point favorite, but that has now flipped. Tulsa is the favorite, by one or 1.5 points depending where you look.
Records: UCF is 6-4, 4-2 in the AAC. Tulsa is 7-3 and is likewise 4-2 in conference play.
All-Time Series: Tulsa has a 6-3 lead in the series, which has its roots in the teams’ Conference USA days. Tulsa was something of a nemesis for UCF. The Golden Hurricane beat the Knights in two conference championship games: 2005 (44-27) and 2012 (in overtime, 33-27).
Two third of the Knights’ wins in the all-time series came in 2007, when UCF beat Tulsa during the regular season and again to win the conference title game.
Last year Tulsa beat the interim head coach Danny Barrett-led Knights 45-30, in what was one of the closer games for the Knights that nightmare season.
UCF Outlook: With last week’s 24-3 strangulation of Cincinnati, the Knights are bowl eligible. For the second week in a row, the UCF defense looked superb. They held the Bearcats to 327 total yards. Linebacker Shaquem Griffin continues to dominate, adding two sacks last week and leading the team with 10.5 on the year. That’s nearly twice as many as the dude with the second-most sacks (fellow LB Errol Clarke) and achieved with half as many hands. Shaquem Griffin is the best player on this UCF team and his match-up against whoever is trying to block him will be one to focus on tomorrow. Of course, the Knights also executed one of the most thoroughly blocked punts around last week:
But Tulsa is not Cincinnati. The Knights’ defense – clearly the strength of the team all year – will be going up against an excellent offense. If this ends up being a race, it will bode poorly for the Knights. There have been good moments on offense, but UCF is plagued by inconsistency and poor performance on third down.
There’s a lot to like about the Knights this year and they’ve rebounded from a winless 2015 far better than I (or really anyone else) thought they would. But here’s the thing: the Knights have yet to beat a genuinely good team this year – and that’s what Tulsa is. UCF has not defeated a team ranked higher than 86 in the S&P+. Wins have come against SC State (as an FCS team, not ranked), FIU (115), ECU (89), UConn (111), Tulane (98), and Cincinnati (86).
Now, to be fair, the Knights have come close to beating good teams. Crazy close. UCF lost to Temple (when the Owls scored with :01 left on the clock to take a one point lead) and Houston (24-31, choking away a big first half lead). And there was the double overtime loss against Maryland. But at some point you have close one out against a good team. We’ll see if the Knights can do so tomorrow.
Tulsa Outlook: Tulsa’s comeback bid against Navy fell short last week and the Golden Hurricane were edged out 42-40. Like the Knights, the Golden Hurricane are no strangers to close conference losses this season – their other AAC loss came 38-31 against Houston when the Cougars forced a fumble, scooped, and scored. Much as the Knights could easily have had a few more wins this season, Tulsa could easily be 9-1 if a handful of plays had gone differently.
Tulsa’s offense is capable of success both on the ground and through the air. The Golden Hurricane are ranked second in the AAC in scoring with 42.2 points per game (conversely, the Knights are second in scoring defense with 20.6). Quarterback Dane Evans has passed for 2,613 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’s now the school’s all-time passing leader.
Running backs D’Angelo Brewer and James Flanders each have over a thousand yards rushing, and five and fourteen rushing touchdowns respectively. And the Golden Hurricane can score fast – they have 27 scoring drives in regulation of less than two minutes, including ten under one minute.
If these two teams end up pacing each other for scores, then look for things to ultimately go the way of the Golden Hurricane. They’ve shown far, far, far more consistency on offense than the Knights have.
Prediction: Vegas and the advanced stats have this as a close game. Football Study Hall puts it at 50% (but evidently a slight edge to Tulsa, calling it a 0.1 point loss for the Knights). While this game could easily be a coin flip, I fret about the Knights’ inconsistency on offense. And I focus on the fact that the Knights have not beaten a good team yet.
I’ll call it a Tulsa win, 38-24.
 That was the second time that season that Tulsa beat the Knights. Two weeks before that Conference USA Championship, Tulsa won 23-21 at Chapman Stadium.