Each week during the football season, a few staff contributors will answer five questions regarding the upcoming game ahead. 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.
In our ninth roundtable of the football season, Chas Short, Derek Warden, Jeremy Brener and Brian Murphy take their seats at the roundtable to answer questions about tomorrow’s much-anticipated matchup against Houston.
1. After a big road win last week, what do you expect to see from the Knights this week?
Chas Short: A big home win.
Derek Warden: Consistency. I want to see this team put together two full games back-to-back, not for momentum, but to see if the bye week allowed the coaches and players to correct any weaknesses.
Jeremy Brener: I think you’ll see an incredibly fast start and a 2+ touchdown lead before the end of the first quarter. Then, the lead will continue to stretch and the Knights will win comfortably.
Brian Murphy: Similar to the UConn and East Carolina games, I think the Knights will take advantage of Houston’s awful run defense and pretty much put this game to bed by halftime. But in the second half, I wouldn’t be shocked if Houston works its way back into the game enough to become a backdoor cover (UCF is favored by 22 currently, per Vegas Insider). That might bother you, but it shouldn’t. The players and coaches have talked openly this week about how it’s natural to have a little letdown when you own an insurmountable lead. I think that will happen again this week.
2. UCF nearly found themselves back in the Top 25 this week and the CFP poll makes its first appearance next Thursday. What does UCF need to do to ensure they are in that Top 25 next week?
Chas Short: A big win will be necessary to help the optics. And it will be essential for others at be bottom of the current ranking to lose as App State did. We all appreciate that the polls are not the CFP rankings, but they’re the best proxy for figuring out what it could look like.
Derek Warden: They need to treat the Cougars like a team that is tanking: hit them in the mouth early and don’t let off the gas like they did against ECU.
Jeremy Brener: Win big. Throw up a number on the scoreboard that will catch the eye of the pollsters. The first digit in UCF’s score must be a 6 at least.
Brian Murphy: I guess win handily and then hope that a few teams ranked in front of them lose. Appalachian State falling on Thursday night helped — I think?
Who’s to say the Knights aren’t already ranked in the College Football Playoff’s top 25? We don’t know; the AP poll shouldn’t be viewed as a proxy for the CFP poll. They are two completely different entities. Conversely, maybe even a huge win over Houston and help elsewhere won’t put UCF in the top 25. It’s kind of foolish to presume as much.
3. Name one player from Houston that UCF needs to keep an eye on.
Chas Short: The very, very, very fast Marquez Stevenson.
Derek Warden: On offense: Marquez Stevenson - he’s their leading receiver by far, and has 6 touchdowns on the season, almost half of their 13 passing TDs on the year. On defense: DE David Anenih - he might be a bit undersized, but he leads the team in sacks (5) and is third on the team in TFL (6.5).
Jeremy Brener: Marquez Stevenson could pose a problem as he can break open the defense on any given play. I’ll also piggyback off of Derek again and say that David Anenih can cause some problems for the offensive line, but I was insanely impressed by the O-line after last week’s trench domination. Hopefully we will see the same from the Knights this week.
Brian Murphy: The key players have already been mentioned, so I’ll instead bring up an entire position: The Houston offensive line. So far, it has been one of the nation’s worst in pass protection, allowing 3.13 sacks per game. UCF has registered seven sacks in its last two games, so this looks to be a mismatch on paper.
4. What are your thoughts on Houston’s “tank?”
Chas Short: It’s frankly one of the most interesting things in football right now. I don’t have any philosophical objection to it, I’m fascinated by it, and I can’t wait to see how it works out. Big risk for all involved, a gutsy strategy.
Derek Warden: If I was a senior for Houston and wasn’t asked to redshirt (or couldn’t), I’d be upset that my last year was being wasted. As a fan, I wouldn’t be too upset sacrificing one season if the expectations for the next year would be a potential top-25 team.
Jeremy Brener: I think it is one of the most under-the-radar stories in college football right now and it is not getting enough attention. For those of you who have not read the Twitter thread from former Cougar Justin Murphy, read this:
My name is Justin Murphy. And according to sources I am no longer apart of the 2019 Houston Cougar Football Senior Class. A senior class that is the first group to experience a head coach and administration to actively tank a football season. (THREAD)— Justin Murphy (@JMurphy_73) October 11, 2019
It gives a lot of insight into the season that it has been for Houston. Earlier in the season, Houston looked like a team that could really threaten UCF and beat them at home. However, they started off 1-3, asked their seniors to redshirt and are basically saying goodbye to any chances of winning this season. It’s stunning and something college football has never seen before.
Brian Murphy: Like Chaz said, it is gutsy. It’s presumptive as well. Nothing says Houston WILL be better next season. No team is guaranteed success, no matter how high the preseason expectations (2019 UCF could be viewed as an example). I think this tactic will basically frame how people think about Dana Holgorsen at Houston: If it leads to losses next year, he’s an idiot. If it leads to wins next year, he’s a genius.
Hindsight: The basis of most sports journalism!
5. Score/Attendance prediction
Chas Short: 42-21, UCF.
As for attendance . . . noon game, but the space game, and coming off a huge win . . . I’ll call it a bit better than ECU attendance and say 43,000.
Derek Warden: 52-17 UCF, 43,919
Jeremy Brener: 66-21 UCF, 38,750. The noon start really hurts us here.
Brian Murphy: I know I am among the few who are legitimately excited for the noon kickoff. After a series of night starts, which mean I don’t get home until 1 or 2 a.m., I am selfishly pumped to leave the stadium before sundown for a change. It will affect attendance, but they will still announce a strong number. Something around ... 40,508? Sure.
UCF wins, but as I said before, Houston covers late: 48-28.