By Admir Aljic
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It is a showdown in the American Athletic Conference when the UCF Knights take on the SMU Mustangs. The Knights enter this contest riding high after defeating Tulane last Saturday, 14-10. That was their third straight victory. Central Florida did not cover the spread (-13.5) in the victory over Tulane but did so in the previous two contests. However, they are 3-6 ATS this season. SMU is coming off their second straight loss after losing to Memphis on Saturday, 28-25. They were favored by 3.5-points in that contest and are now 1-3 ATS in their last four games.
The Mustangs are favored by 7.5-points in this contest. UCF has won each of the last three meetings between these teams, including a 48-20 victory in October 2018.
Late Score Propels Knights
Mikey Keene threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Johnson with a little under six minutes left in the contest to provide the margin of victory as Central Florida defeated Tulane, 14-10. A 10 point third quarter had put the Green Wave on top by three, but the Knights were able to pull out the late victory. Keene passed for 229 yards and two touchdowns and Ryan O’Keefe had 11 catches for 94 yards and a score. The UCF defense produced four sacks in the game.
UCF is averaging 32.4 points per game, 36th overall, and they are 64th in yards per game 405.4. Keene has done a solid job after Dillon Gabriel went down for the season with a broken collarbone in late September. The quarterback has completed 65.0% of his passes for 1089 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, he has thrown six interceptions in 160 attempts.
O’Keefe has been a star at the wide receiver position, making 58 catches for 582 yards and five touchdowns. Johnson is second on the team with 29 catches for 397 yards and nine scores. There is a solid ground game led by Isaiah Bowser, who has rushed for 504 9 yards and seven scores. Johnny Richardson is second with 425 yards rushing and is averaging 5.8 yards per carry.
The Knights are allowing 24.1 points per game, 58th in the country. The team has 21 sacks, eight fumble recoveries, and seven interceptions. Tatum Bethune has been a ball hawk, second on the team with 66 tackles, to go along with 1.5 sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble. Big Kat Bryant leads the team with 4.5 sacks.
Mustangs Rally Falls Short
SMU found themselves trailing by 18 with a little over 11 minutes left in the contest, but were able to battle back to pull within three, but could not get the equalizer in a 28-25 loss to Memphis. Tanner Mordechai led the comeback, passing for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Danny Gray had both touchdown receptions as part of and 98 yard, four-catch day.
SMU is eighth in scoring at 40.1 points per game and they are 10th in the nation in yards per contest at 485.3. This is a very good offense led by Mordechai, who has completed 70.1% of his passes for 2887 yards and 34 touchdowns. He has thrown nine interceptions in 328 attempts.
The Mustangs have two receivers with at least 45 catches and four with at least 32 grabs. Gray leads the team with 47 catches for 780 yards and nine touchdowns. SMU also has a solid ground game led by Tre Siggers, who has rushed for 570 yards and five touchdowns. Ulysses Bentley is second on the team with 420 yards rushing and has an impressive 7.1 yards per carry average.
The Mustangs are allowing 25.7 points per game, 66th in the country. The defense has 20 sacks, eight interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. Delano Robinson leads the team with 54 tackles and has a sack and an interception. Turner Coxe leads the team with five sacks.
SMU and their high-powered offense enter this contest as the favorites. That is not surprising. However, the Mustangs have not played well traditionally against the Knights, and UCF has a solid offense. Plus, their defense is slightly better.
I look at the most recent trends, however. SMU is 5-0 ATS in their last five games at home and is 4-1 ATS in their last five home games against the team with a winning record on the road. UCF is 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games and are 1-5 ATS in their last six games on the road.
The Mustangs have suffered two straight losses, but both of those have come by a combined total of 10 points. They won three of the previous four games by at least eight points, and I look for them to pull out a narrow enough victory to cover the spread
.Prediction: Take the SMU Mustangs at -7.5 (-110)
Written By Admir Aljic , “The Admiral”
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