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Knights' RoundTable: Saddling Up for SMU

Knights Face Mustangs Saturday night at Spectrum

Adrian Killins (Photo: Derek Warden)
Adrian Killins (Photo: Derek Warden)

Each week, a few staff contributors will answer five questions regarding the upcoming events in UCF sports. It’s a way to get the staff to come together as well as the rest of Knights Nation, to see if they agree or disagree with the crew at BGB.

This week, Jeff Sharon, Brian Murphy, and Jeremy Brener are back to sit down and chitchat about the Knights and their upcoming contest against the SMU Mustangs.

1. Can UCF gain anything out of this weekend as they play a weak opponent in SMU?

Jeff Sharon: Not really. SMU is not that good. I don't care that they're 1-0 and leading the West. They're 2-3, including a loss to North Texas. Their offense is mediocre and their defense is bad. I suppose the best-case scenario is UCF's offense throws up a ridiculous number of points that makes everyone do a double-take. But it's a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't game for UCF.

Brian Murphy: They can gain a win, how bout dah? No matter SMU's flaws -- the Mustangs don't run the ball well; they are dealing with instability at QB; their defense allows 38 points per game -- conference clashes always carry great importance. While everyone is talking about UCF's College Football Playoff chances, beating SMU will move the Knights one step closer to a much more attainable goal: winning the AAC and earning the Group of 5 auto-bid.

Jeremy Brener: They have nothing to gain and everything to lose. A win against SMU means that they can beat a team that they are better than at home, something we already know about this team. A loss would be catastrophic. The Knights would likely plummet out of the Top 25 entirely and be mocked by the entire country. Just as the Athletic Department says, a win would be better than a loss. But that's about it.

2. What is one under-the-radar storyline that you would like to bring to light for this game?

Jeff Sharon: UCF's rushing attack is really wrecking people right now. The Knights are already over 1,000 team rushing yards through four games and are 5th in the nation in rush yards per game at 272.8. This is with no individual player at more than 233 yards for the season (that's Adrian Killins). So for all the hoop-lah about high-flyin' Josh Heupel's offense and McKenzie Milton bombing folks, the Knights have been griding teams with this quick-pace rushing attack. Who knows what they'll do against the #95 rushing defense in FBS?

Brian Murphy: I'll throw a couple of fun facts out there: UCF has the best third-down conversion percentage in the FBS (31 for 50, 62 percent). Meanwhile, SMU ranks 120th -- 10th-worst in the FBS -- in third-down conversion defense (36 for 76, 47.4 percent).

Secondly, we all talked previously about how good Scott Frost was at making halftime adjustments and how the Knights took over in second halves. Well, small sample size aside, this year's team is outscoring teams in the second half by a margin of 91-33. And 21 of those 33 points from opponents have been scored with fewer than 5 minutes to play. In other words, those points were essentially meaningless and came against a defense that was playing very soft.

Jeremy Brener: Richie Grant is tied for second in the country with three interceptions. He has a chance to get into a tie with Jake Yurachek of Colorado with a pick on Saturday. Grant has been a huge playmaker for the Knights in the secondary this season, trying to make up for Mike Hughes' and Tre Neal's departures.

Grant has been a pleasant surprise this season. The redshirt sophomore did not record a pick last season, but already has three in four games this season. Look for him to be a huge part of this team's secondary down the stretch.

3. Does McKenzie Milton still have a shot at the Heisman trophy? If so, what does he need to do this week in order to continue his campaign?

Jeff Sharon: Yes, but he needs help. I'm not as high on Tua Tagovailoa's chances as everyone else is. But KZ has to do what he's been doing (300+ pass yards, 6+ total TDs) and go all Air McNair/Colt Brennan on people virtually every week for this to happen, and even then it might not be enough. Heck, it wasn't enough for those guys.

Brian Murphy: Does he have a shot to win it? I think it's an extremely small chance, but sure, I guess. If he keeps piling up the numbers as he has -- six TDs per week ain't bad -- he should be a Heisman finalist and receive an invite to the ceremony in New York. I think that in itself would be quite the achievement worth lauding.

Jeremy Brener: He is not on the level of Tua or Dwayne Haskins, yet. I think he could work his way up to the Top 5. He runs the top offense in the country, so he ought to be in the running. I know he's had a hiccup or two here and there (See: South Carolina State) but I like his chances. If he gets invited to New York City, it's a big win for the program. That should hopefully be the first goal.

4. What are your final score and attendance predictions for the game?

Jeff Sharon: UCF 57, SMU 27. Attendance: 43,000

Brian Murphy: Bring me the random number generator! First number is a 4, and the second number will be between 3-5, because the fans have really turned out in droves over the past few weeks. Props to them.

43,734. Take it to Vegas.

As for the score, UCF is a 24.5-point favorite as of Wednesday night and will have no problem surpassing that line. They beat the line versus UConn, FAU and Pittsburgh as well, so why stop now? But this should be a high-scoring affair. Knights roll, 55-24.

Jeremy Brener: UCF 59, SMU 20. I'll say this game draws 43,180.

5. Are you #TeamOtis or #TeamOtisMom?

Jeff Sharon: Hell hath no fury like a football mom scorned. I ain't goin' there.

Brian Murphy: I'm always on Team GoodStory.

Jeremy Brener: To quote Drake, "I only love my bed and my mama, I'm sorry."