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Out of all the Championship games, the battle for Conference USA is set to be the closest. Both schools come into this game with a 7-1 conference and 9-3 overall record. When they faced off two weeks ago, Tulsa squeaked by with a 23-21 win (although Tulsa dominated statistically). The Golden Hurricane come into this one as 1.5-point favorites. Statistically, the two teams are very even. Each scores just over 35 points per game while Central Florida allows just two points less per game on defense. Their schedules are very similar as well with their two out of conference losses coming against bigger teams. UCF lost close games to Ohio State and Missouri while Tulsa faltered to Iowa State and Arkansas.
In their last meeting on Nov. 17, Tulsa actually outgained UCF by more than 220 yards. What kept the Knights close was a second quarter pick six for 76 yards. Without that interception, the score would have looked a lot different. Tulsa QB Cody Green didn't have many problems in the game (besides the INT) throwing for 252 yards and three TDs. He has now thrown for three touchdowns in two straight games. The passing game wasn't the only thing working against UCF, as they rushed for 209 yards as a team. Trey Watts ran for his second highest season total with 122 yards while Alex Singleton pitched in for 64 yards. Singleton is more of a bruiser at 260 pounds, and that shows in his 19 touchdowns this season. Top wide receiver Keyarris Garrett was unstoppable against the Knights, as well. He had his best game of the year with 130 yards and three TDs. It would be smart for Green to look Garrett's way early and often once again.
UCF not only struggled on offense, but on defense, as well. Blake Bortles couldn't get anything going for most of the day as he only completed 13 of his 31 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. The good thing is that he didn't throw an interception in that game and has only thrown two in his past nine games. Their ground game didn't look any better either. Latavius Murray is averaging 6.2 yards per carry on the season, but only managed 60 yards on 22 carries in the first matchup.
The Knights are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 road games vs. a team with a winning home record, but 2-6 ATS in their last eight games following a ATS win. The Golden Hurricane are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 home games vs. a team with a winning road record. They covered a 1-point spread the first time around and the under hit by 10 points. The over has hit in seven of UCF's last eight games overall while the under has hit six straight times for Tulsa at home. The under is 4-0-1 in their last five meetings. Also in this meeting, the favorite has covered five of the last six matchups and the home team is 4-1 ATS in their last five.
They have both beaten a few similar opponents although UCF has looked a little better doing so and they also blew out the only conference opponent to beat Tulsa, SMU, 42-17. As you might expect, our model has this game dead even, right in line with the posted line. However, when you break it down season to date, you'll find that UCF has the slightly better numbers on both sides of the ball including turnover margin where UCF is +10 to Tulsa's +2.
True, Tulsa dominated the first game statistically, but adjustments will be made. We'd expect a much different outcome this time around. In a rematch game where not much separates two teams, the team that lost the first game has an edge, in our opinion, in the 2nd game. UCF +2 (if this line continues to rise, we could get interested for real at +3 or better)