Cure Bowl Pick
Both Arkansas State and UCF were challenged in non-Conference play and neither really competed. In fact, the Red Wolves lost to in-state FCS school, Central Arkansas. While UCF has plenty of slip-ups as well, the Knights are a -5,5 point favorite for the AutoNation Cure Bowl at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.
With this Game being in Orlando, UCF has the proximity edge as they are about a half-hOur away from the stadium. But the most impressive stat heading into this Game is that UCF didn’t even win a Game a year ago and now they are playing in a bowl Game. Props are due to SCott Frost, who is in his first year as the team’s head coach.
The Knights lost early Games against Big Ten teams as expected, but more importantly, they got wins against teams they were favored over all season. However, that’s about the only positive as none of UCF’s six wins came over teams with a winning record. They were all against mostly badly teams. Looking on the positive side of that, it’s kind of how the AAC is built. Five teams have at least nine wins and gave UCF all of its losses, while the rest are Memphis (who UCF didn’t play), UCF itself, or the bottom feeders.
That said, Arkansas State is in a similar situation, but with a 7-5 record. The Red Wolves were terrible in non-Conference play, but dealt with the Sun Belt fairly easily winning seven of eight Games. Of course, most of those wins came against teams with losing records, but a 35-3 win at Troy stands out like a sore thumb on their Schedule. Troy was a good team and took Clemson to the wire, but the Trojans fell apart against Arkansas State.
Both teams have good defensive numbers, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot playing in these conferences. What will matter is what offense can move the ball.
Starting with the favorites, UCF has the better offense, scoring 30.1 points per Game and that’s mostly because of SCott Frost, who came from Oregon. The Knights turned to freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton a couple Games into the year and that turned things around for this offense. Sure, his numbers aren’t great with just nine TDs and seven INTs, but he was much more effective than Justin Holman. Milton at least gave the team a chance in close losses to Temple and Houston. UCF has an okay running attack, but it’s nothing to break open a Game, as their top two running backs average 3.9 yards per carry or less.
On the other end, Arkansas State has gotten more yards, but not as many points. The Red Wolves average the same yards per carry as a team, but their two backs average 4.7 ypc. That could be a factor because that ground Game is what led to a win against Troy. Quarterback Justice Hansen has been decent in his first year as the starter with 16 TDs and 8 INTs. again, a lot of those numbers came against bad teams and he’s still completing only 58.9% of his passes.
This spread does seem a bit high, but the Sun Belt is regarded as a lesser Conference than the AAC. The Red Wolves have been a different team than early on, but will that matter against a team that may have most of the crowd at the Game?
The Knights are 4-1 ATS in their last five following a straight-up loss and 0-3-1 ATS in their last Four vs. the Sun Belt. The Red Wolves are 5-1 ATS in their last six following a straight-up win, but haven’t covered in their last six non-Conference Games.
Our Pick – After not winning a Game a year ago and now having a chance to put a cherry on top of their season with a Bowl Game win, we’re going to side with a UCF squad who should be plenty motivated. Our numbers agree. Central Florida -5.5