Saturday we face off against the University of Central Florida’s Knights football team in an out-of-conference game and will be trying to get back above water in the win column. Currently we are 2-2 and will be facing a very good team in their house. The Knights are coached by new hire Josh Heupel (after going 13-0 under Scott Frost and being screwed out of the playoffs by the pollsters).
Even though they are in Football Bowl Subdivision’s American Athletic Conference (AAC) with what remains of the old Big East teams we Pitt people should never look down our noses at that – after all they have been regularly beating the teams we use to lose to. The fact that they aren’t a Power Five team means nothing when it comes to the quality of football they play.
For instance this season the beat UCONN 56-7; last year they beat Maryland B10’s 38-10 then ended their season with wins over #22 USF (49-42) then #16 Memphis (62-55) and in the Peach Bowl handled the SEC’s #7 ranked Auburn 34-27.
They have had six 10 win seasons over the past 10 years and here is what UCF has done over their last five seasons:
Everyone knows UCF can score tons of points – at present they are averaging 50.0 ppg in their three wins to open the season. These are their offensive rankings:
Read that and weep thinking about how poor our defense has been against the big pass plays. Add to that these guys rush the ball as well as anyone in the country and there is nervous-making in abundance. Offensively UCF is just about the best team in the country.
Their two major weapons are SR QB McKenzie Milton’s great grasp of the QB position in their hurry-up offense and his ability to accurately put the pass onto his receivers in every route pattern, including the deep ball.
You can see that his yards per attempt is a very good 8.7 but what jumps out is his yards per completion at 13.5 and his Passing efficiency of 160.1. Remember how well Peterman played for us in 2016? Well, his QB rating was 160 also.
The other weapon is RB Adrian Killins who is a workhorse at carrying the ball for them. His numbers aren’t as gaudy as some others have but he plays on a team that is a pass-first offense. Last season he averaged 6.5 ypc on 122 attempts. Here is what he’s done so far:But Killins isn’t the only running threat – QB Milton can motor also. Take a look at what he’s done with his legs over the last two season (’17 and now ’18):He’s averaging 6.4 ypc and that isn’t just a scramble or two – he’s carried the ball 23 times in three games – they have the QB keeper in their offensive game plan just like we do. Compare that to what our QB Kenny Pickett has done so far with his feet and you’ll see Milton is a real and dangerous threat. Here are Pickett’s rushing stats:
Now, where our kids may be able to take advantage in this matchup is twofold – UCF’s offense isn’t out on the field all that much where they are almost dead last in D1 with only 24:51 minutes time of possession. Of course, that means they score so quickly they get it done and the “O” goes back and sits on the bench to flirt with their Dance team. But… it also means that our defensive players will be fresher in the 2nd half of the game. For what that is worth given our weird 2nd half play so far.
All that info is so impressive college football fans tend to overlook what they do on the other side of the ball – which isn’t so eye-opening. Here’s what I mean.
Below are UCF’s defensive stats – notice something that I think it vitally important on a defense – the ability to make their opponents QBs passing game less efficient. They basically lead the country in that also…along with not allowing opposing QBs many yards passing. We certainly should be able to run on that defense and if we can sustain long time-consuming drives we may have a chance at a win.
I think that’s our only real shot at winning this one. Here’s a look at the Knights’ head to head statistics with their three opponents so far.
The fact that they are currently holding teams to 17.7 points scares me because our offense has truly sucked against D1 teams. Even with the 33 points against an FCS team – with zero in the 2nd half we are scoring 24.5 ppg which puts us at 102nd (out of 129 teams) and is darn low.
But against other D1 teams we are scoring only 21.6 ppg Here that is again:
Total Offense – 101st @ 61.0 ppg
Rushing Offense – 35th @ 212.3 ypg
Passing Offense – 117th @ 148.8 ypg
Scoring Offense – 102nd @ 24.5 ppg and against D1 teams 21.6 ppg
Rushing well will help us but 22 points is not going to win the game for us on Saturday. Here are the odds as of today – we are getting 13.5 points and that sounds low to me.
We’ll run the Game Predictions thread on Friday but my gut take – especially after researching all of the above – is that we are going to have our asses handed to us on a silver platter.