UCF still wants to be considered for the College Football Playoff and while that may be the main talking point during this Game, beating up on AAC teams isn’t going to change anything. This was one of the best Games of the year in 2017, but given USF’s recent struggles, the excitement probably won’t be the same this time. The Knights opened as large -14.5 point road favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
These teams battled a full 60 minutes last year and it was for a spot in the Conference title Game. UCF grabbed an early 21-7 lead, but USF came back with Four of the next five touchdowns to lead 34-28. The Fourth quarter was all about UCF, though the final couple minutes were incredible. Not only did the Knights Scoreon their final two offensive possessions that took less than three minutes combined, but USF tied things up with an 83-yard touchdown before UCF returned the kickoff to seal it.
Things will undoubtedly be different this time mostly because the USF offense isn’t as dynamic and UCF has been playing slightly more defensive. That was seen in last weekend’s dominating 38-13 win for the Knights against Cincy. The Bulls have a decent team, but they’ve fallen apart and lost their last Four. That said, even when they were winning, it wasn’t easy, escaping teams like Illinois, East Carolina and Tulsa.
Blake Barnett simply isn’t the same quarterback as Quinton Flowers, who threw for 503 yards and ran for 102 in last year’s meeting. Barnett, formerly of Alabama and Arizona State, has been mediocre at best completing 62.1% of his passes for 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. It’s been more about the ground Game for USF as both Jordan Cronkrite and Johnny Ford are averaging at least 6.5 yards per carry to go with a combined 17 touchdowns. The route to success is there because UCF is allowing 4.5 yards per carry and 213 rushing yards per Game. If that defense shows its head, there could be some problems for the Knights. Then again, they gave up 252 rushing yards to Cincy last Game and still won by 25 points.
The problem with the Bulls is that their defense is worse, giving up 231 rushing yards and 30.9 points per contest. Going against a similar UCF offense to the one that carved them up last year, UCF could be headed for 40-plus points again. McKenzie Milton hasn’t been as good, yet he’s still efficient with 9.24 yards per attempt and 24 touchdowns compared to only five picks. Of course, given Cincy’s run defense, the Knights will also feed running backs Greg McCrae, Adrian Killins and Taj McGowan.
This Game is at USF and there’s a path for them to stay competitive at home, but the Knights could easily get a lead and force Barnett into more work than he’s capable of and that could lead to an ugly result. The Knights are 4-1 ATS in their last five road Games and 5-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The Bulls are 1-4 ATS in their last five home Games, but 9-3 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. South Florida is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these schools but the road team is 4-1 ATS in that period.
Our Pick – If UCF wants to kling to their playoff hopes, nothing short of an outright slaughter will suffice here. With the current line of -14.5 on Monday afternoon combined with the fact that Our model has UCF by anywhere from 20 to 34, we think a slaughter may very well be in the cards. Central Florida -14.5