The annual match up between UCF and USF is almost here and fans are getting excited. The columnists at the Orlando Sentinel are tried, successfully, to drum up some emotion from the USF fans by going to USF wearing UCF gear and flags on his head. UCF fans are getting excited with the thought of trying to upset USF and put an early end to their dream season. The Bulls are ranked number 5 in the country and have sold out Raymond James for the second game in a row.
USF is coming off of a tough win against FAU down in Boca Raton. It was a very close game in which FAU had chances to come away with the upset win, but USF's defense stepped up and made the stops when they needed them most. The offense was led by running back Ben Williams, who ran for over 180 yards and had 4 touchdowns. Matt Groethe had a career day running the ball, but once again struggled in the passing game.
While USF is undefeated and coming off of a win, UCF is coming off of a disappointing big loss to ECU. Many USF fans have made a lot out of that ECU game, but they also need to remember that UCF almost beat a good Texas team. For UCF it will depend on which team shows up this week: the one that played Texas, or the one that played ECU. In a rivalry game everything gets thrown out the window, so neither side should be surprised by any outcome.
UCF Offense v. USF Defense
Talk about a big time match up. UCF has one of the best running backs in college football in Kevin Smith, who is averaging 180 yards a game. Smith has been great all year long and put up 150 yards against Texas, who gives up less yards per game than the USF defense. The Bulls defense has been great all year long and shut down one of the best running teams in WVU two weeks ago. Ben Moffitt and the other linebackers have been flying to the ball and have not allowed teams to get much going offensively. WVU is one of the best run offenses that anyone will play, but UCF runs the ball differently. WVU relies on misdirection and using speed to get to the outside and gain big chunks. The Bulls have the speed to get to the outside, which is why they always give them fits. UCF on the other hand is more of a power running team and will run the ball right at the Bulls. It is a much different animal to have to deal with and the Bulls will be in for a much more physical game.
The UCF pass game has not been too effective this year. Some of this is a product of running the ball so often, but a lot of it is because they are not good in the passing game period. USF corner Mike Jenkins, a possible first round draft choice, will shut down whoever he covers and make it very difficult on the Knights to throw the ball. Once they shut the passing game down, it will make it easier to stop Smith and the run game.
USF Offense v. UCF Defense
USF has been balanced on offense this year going for 183 in the air and 181 on the ground. While its good to be balanced, 183 in the air is not a number to be happy about. It seems that Groethe has taken a step back this season in the passing department and is not reading the defenses correctly. He has had only 3 interceptions so far on the year, but has also only thrown 5 touchdowns. The Knights defense are not the ball hawking defense that FAU was and have only intercepted 3 passes on the season. While they have only had 3 picks, they were at bad times and they have had some other bad fumbles that have cost them. So far the turnovers have not led to losses, but if they keep playing with fire, they will get burned by good teams.
With Mike Ford out last week, Ben Williams stepped up and went over 180 yards. The better the bulls can run, the better they will be able to set up the pass. The Knights have not been great at stopping the run this year and the Bulls may be able to take advantage of it. Hopefully Mike Ford will be back for this game and the Bulls can rotate in their backs along with Groethe running the ball.
This game will be tougher than most USF fans want to believe. While they struggled against ECU last week, UCF has been good for most of the season and Geroge O'Leary is a good big game coach. Jim Leavitt has been keeping his team focused in on UCF and they will come out fired up. USF will take the game in the end, but closer than many believe.
Final: USF 24 UCF 20