It's winless UCF's second consecutive match-up against an undefeated team. The Houston Cougars travel to UCF for the Knights' homecoming game ranked #21 in the AP poll and #22 in the Coaches poll.
The Cougars are red hot and they're going to do bad, bad, things to the Knights tomorrow.
Start time: Sat., Oct. 24 at Noon.
Location: Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando, FL
Radio: 96.9-FM & 740-AM - Orlando
Betting Line: Houston is a 22.5 point favorite.
The Series: UCF has been historically dominant against Houston, and owns a 5-1 record. The match-up has been mostly a tight one, with five of the games decided by seven points or less. The last two games in the series have had ridiculously tight endings.
In 2013, UCF edged Houston thanks to a pass break up in the end zone on fourth down:
Last year's game had an even wilder ending. Brandon Alexander forced Houston QB Greg Ward Jr.'s fumble through the end zone for a touchback, preventing what would have been the Cougar's potentially game-tying touchdown:
Well. Brandon Alexander isn't here anymore.
Houston Outlook: We don't know what George O'Leary is going to say to his team prior to their matchup with the Cougars on Saturday, but whatever it is won't be enough. The Cougars demolished Tulane 42-7 last week, scoring a touchdown on the first play of the game and cruising from there. Granted, at 2-4, the Green Wave far from what you would call "respectable", but the fact remains that Houston took care of business. Now, UH gets to face (read: feast) an 0-7 UCF team that unofficially leads the nation in lowlights.
Not that the Cougs need any help. Houston is ranked fifth nationally in points (45.7) and yards (554.7) per game, while allowing only 21.3 points and 375.7 yards per game. The offense also averages 6.6 yards per play, good enough for 14th in the nation. Quarterback Greg Ward, Jr. has been central to Houston's success this season, accounting for 23 total touchdowns (14 rushing, nine passing) so far. He's completing 71% of his passes, totaling 1524 yards and is averaging 6.78 yards per carry on the ground. Ward, Jr. and the rest of the Cougar offense is more than capable of steamrolling the Knights, especially on the ground.
Defensively, the Cougs have the nation's leading tackler in linebacker Elandon Roberts. Roberts has 50 total tackles through six games. While the Cougar defense has struggled at times, don't expect that to continue against UCF, who ranks dead last nationally in total offense and averages only 3.87 yards per play and 15.7 points per game.
UCF Outlook: We hope The Basement is stocked up on kegs, because this won't be the week that UCF finally wins.
The Knights had opportunities last week in a 30-16 loss to Temple. The defense made plays (including finally an interception - Shaquill Griffin's pick six). But the offense continued to be absurdly bad, including QB Justin Holman who has been a disaster since coming back from injury against UConn. His stat line in two games back is a combined 37/81 for 322 yards, 1 TD, and 5 interceptions. Last week, UCF had four turnovers that gave field position inside Temple territory and only got a total of three points on them. The Knights had a staggeringly bad 134 yards of total offense. Things are . . . bad.
It's never a good sign when the most laudatory part of the team is the play of the kicker. We are really scrapping the bottom of the optimism barrel when we see newspaper articles raving about kicker play. That said, congratulations Matthew Wright! Despite missing what would have been a game-winning field goal against FIU, Wright's performance means the kicking game is probably the most functional part of this team. He's hit his last eight field goals (good enough to tie him for the eighth most consecutive field goals by a UCF player). He's missed only that game-losing attempt against FIU.
No way are the Knights going to be able to keep pace with the Cougars, despite a defense that is finally getting (some) things done. Iowa State transfer T.J. Mutcherson (whom we predicted to give the UCF secondary a boost this year) made an impact in his first UCF start, with seven tackles (one for a loss), a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries last week. And of course Shaquill Griffin showed some ability with the aforementioned pick six - UCF's first defensive touchdown since 2012.
But none of this will be enough. Expect the Knights' march to 0-12 to continue tomorrow.