Start Time: September 23, 2017 at 3 PM ET.
Radio: AM 740/FM 96.9 The Game
Location: Maryland Stadium.
Records: Maryland is 2-0, 0-0 Big Ten. UCF is 1-0, 0-0 AAC.
The Series: Maryland won the sole previous meeting last year. It was the first start for UCF QB McKenzie Milton (then a freshman), and though he made some big plays he also made a load of mistakes. The Terps prevailed in double overtime.
Betting Line: Maryland is a four point favorite.
UCF Knights Outlook: UCF fans sorely miss watching the Knights play football. The Knights opened the season on August 31 by absolutely dominating the FIU Panthers. The chaos of Hurricane Irma forced the cancellation of the Knights’ second scheduled game (which would have been against Memphis, and which has been fortunately rescheduled for September 30) and the Knights’ third game against Georgia Tech.
The oddity is that even though we’re in week 4, we still don’t know all that much about the Knights yet. We really haven’t seen the starters play many minutes at all this year – garbage time started very early in the opening week drubbing of the Panthers.
But what we have seen is promising. QB McKenzie Milton has taken serious strides forward in his sophomore year and had a career day in less than three and a half quarters of being on the field. The offensive line (a major liability last season and a question mark going into this one) gave him tons of time to throw. And a defense that had to replace many starters (including the entire secondary) looked excellent. The cornerback spot got a boost when transfer Mike Hughes entered the game.
But that defense will be tested against an excellent Maryland offense. It will be strength against strength here – the Maryland rushing attack has been one of the best in the country while UCF’s front seven have been the stoutest part of the UCF defense.
Maryland Terrapins Outlook: Look, Maryland has looked really good this year (and been fun to watch). The Terps beat Texas in a wild opener and then blew away an obviously inferior Towson team. It’s also not the biggest sample size to judge from – Texas is questionable and Towson is of course an FCS program. But still, the Terps have looked like a scary team, especially on offense.
Freshman Kasim Hill stepped in at quarterback once Tyrell Pigrome suffered a season-ending injury against Texas (Pigrome won the game for Maryland in double overtime last year). Hill has mostly played mistake-free, and is currently 16/19 for 207 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions on the year. And wide receiver D.J. Moore has been absolutely dynamic and is a big play threat on the outside. The rushing attack is .really something else. RB Ty Johnson carried 12 times for 132 yards against Texas and had 124 yards on a mere five carries against Towson. That’s a 15.1 yard per carry average. The big play potential is a real risk – over thirteen percent of Maryland’s plays have gone for 20 or more yards.
The Terps defense has been at times fast and physical, but also can give up serious yardage. They surrendered almost 500 yards to Texas (big plays and Texas penalties mitigated the damage the Longhorns were able to inflict on those yards) and even struggled for a quarter against Towson.
Prediction: I foresee a potential shootout here. I believe both teams will be able to move the ball and that the defenses will be seriously tested. But I have more confidence right now that Maryland is the better team. It may be a bit cynical of me to think so, but look – the body of evidence for UCF is so small. Maybe I’ll feel more confident in these Knights after I’ve seen the starters play more than two and a half quarters or so.
Right now, I’ll go with Maryland 42, UCF 35.