The Central Florida Knights come to Nippert Stadium to take on the 2-3 Cincinnati Bearcats tomorrow night. UCF is undefeated and first in the conference, coming off of a convincing 40-13 win against Memphis in their American Athletic Conference opener. UCF has only played 3 games so far this season, but all of the games have been blowout wins. The Golden Knights have outscored their opponents 139-40.
Contrary to UCF’s success so far, UC will come into the game struggling. They have lost their last two contests, including their game last week against Marshall that resulted in a 38-21 loss. Turnovers and inconsistent QB play marred UC in the game; they lost three fumbles to Marshall, while Marshall only turned the ball over on one fumble.
Quarterback Hayden Moore struggled for Cincy, only completing 22 of his 45 passes for 211 yards. That accounts for a disappointing 4.7 yards per attempt. He also only threw for one touchdown. Moore is perhaps playing conservatively (excluding the Navy game), not trying to throw an interception. The offense seems limited at times, which doesn’t make sense because the Bearcats have been effective in the running game so far this season. That should open up the passing game, but it hasn’t. Unfortunately, last year showed that UC does not have any other viable options at QB either, so hopefully Moore will improve.
The defense didn’t play badly, but they were on the field far too much thanks to the three turnovers. Marshall almost doubled UC on time of possession, though UC’s defense still only gave up 366 yards; not too shabby compared to the 349 yards UC gained in almost only half the amount of time. The D definitely regrouped after that offensive-rushing onslaught against Navy the week before last, but there is still room for improvement.
UCF comes into the game averaging more than double the amount of points per game than UC, 46.3 compared to the Bearcats’ 22.8. They have only allowed 13.3 points per game, while UC allows 29.4. In fact, UCF has UC beat in nearly every major team stat, except passing yards allowed per game, as UC is one of the best in the nation at that so far.
Cincinnati certainly will have their hands full against the Knights. My keys to success for UC start with Hayden Moore establishing a rhythm early on in the game. If they want any chance of winning, Hayden Moore has to show up and ball. Their running game has not been enough so far to spark the offense, so it’s up to him. The defense needs to continue the trend it started last game, and allow fewer rushing yards than they did the week before. UCF averages 249.3 rushing yards per game, so UC needs to find a way to shut that down. If they can hold UCF to less than 100 rushing yards in the game, UC will win this game. But, if they allow them to run the ball with ease, then UC doesn’t stand a chance.
Will UC upset the Knights and gain their first conference win of the season? Or will the disappointing start continue? Kickoff is at 8:00 pm tomorrow night.
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