Written by Mark Ruelle
Special to Sports Talk Florida from the top gambling information site Whinnersandwhiners.com
The University of Central Florida travels down the I-4 to take on South Florida in the final regular season game for both teams. This is the last War on I-4 for a while as Central Florida will be moving on up to the to the Big 12 while South Florida stays in the American Athletic Conference where they hope to make the Knights their first AAC win this season.
UCF blew their opportunity to control their own destiny to host the AAC title game after falling to Navy at home last week in an upset. The Knights are now 8-3 on the season and 5-2 in the conference and won’t be able to host the AAC title game after the loss. South Florida comes into this game at 1-10 overall and 0-7 in the conference. Game time is scheduled for 7:00pm EST on ESPN2
Winless in Conference
It will be interesting to see what kind of fight the South Florida Bulls have for their rivals from Central Florida on Saturday. The Bulls are having an extremely down year and remain winless in the AAC this season at 0-7. In addition, they come into this game with nine straight losses overall. The Bulls have not only played poorly but they have been banged up all season. They currently have six players out for the season and four players questionable, including leading receiver Xavier Weaver, for Saturday night’s game. The Bulls showed fight last week, however, losing to Tulsa 48-42. The story of the game was freshman quarterback Byrum Brown. In his first-ever college start, Brown completed his first 21 passes of the game en route to a 21-of-25 performance for 240 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 76 yards on the ground with a touchdown and has suddenly given South Florida fans a reason to be excited about next season.
South Florida comes in with nine straight losses and a banged up roster but the future is now for the Bulls. Brown’s performance last Saturday certainly has given UCF something to look at on film this week. Coming into this final game of the season, the Bulls are ranked 74th in scoring offense this season. They are 36th on the ground but just 103rd through the air, although Brown’s performance gives their passing attack a jolt. The Bulls are sloppy, ranking 114th in turnover differential. Their defense has been the team’s true weak point, ranking 130th in scoring defense and 128th against the run and 125th against the pass.
AAC Title Game in Sight
The Knights of Central Florida have everything in front of them as they head into South Florida on Saturday night. A win and the Knights are assured of a spot in the AAC title game on December 3rd. A loss and they will have more conference losses than both Tulane and Cincinnati, who square off on Saturday. UCF blew an opportunity to host the game with an upset loss to Navy last week. Navy’s triple-option offense controlled the time of possession, finishing with a 39:36 – 20:24 advantage. UCF also struggled in the red zone, settling for two field goals in the red zone en route to a 17-14 loss.
“First of all, extremely tough loss. It was real disappointing for our guys, especially our seniors in their last home game and everything that went with that,” said UCF head coach Gus Malzahn. “Give them [Navy] credit. They did what it took to win the game. First half, they had the ball quite a bit. We had opportunities, but we got field goals down there going in and you have to score touchdowns.”
UCF will certainly have plenty of motivation on Saturday night against the struggling Bulls of South Florida. UCF brings the 30th ranked scoring offense in the nation to the game. They are an impressive 8th in the country running the ball and 51st through the air. Defensively, the Knights have been solid as well, ranking 24th in scoring defense. They are 57th against the run and 76th against the pass.
Key Injuries: LB Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste is questionable with an ankle.
UCF comes into this game with far more on the line than South Florida. While one could look at the ‘nothing to lose’ theory with the Bulls and their freshman quarterback, I’m leaning towards the far more well-rounded Knights playing with some anger after last week’s loss. They also have a game’s worth of film to review on Brown and will certainly show the freshman some new looks that he has not come across on defense. In other words, do not expect Brown to complete his first 21 passes in this game. UCF’s ground game will pound the Bulls’ 130th ranked run defense and control the tempo throughout this game. UCF has an AAC title game in their sights and they won’t have another letdown game.
Take UCF -19.5
Prediction: UCF -19.5
Written By Mark Ruelle , “Mark Ruelle”
Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.