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 final roundtable of the football season, Jeff Sharon, Jeremy Brener and Brian Murphy take their seats at the roundtable to answer questions about today’s matchup against Marshall.
1. What does UCF have to prove in this game?
Jeff Sharon: Nothing really. That’s the issue with bowl games.
Jeremy Brener: I don’t think a win or loss will prove much for the Knights when it comes to national perspective. A loss would hurt, but given the stage of the Gasparilla Bowl on a Monday afternoon, I don’t expect a loss to hurt. A win would not move the needle much either. They need to prove to themselves that they should be considered one of the best in the country and they can ride the momentum into 2020.
Brian Murphy: As defensive tackle Anthony Montalvo said this week, a win in this game would prove that “we’re still here.” It has been a season of unmet expectations for UCF, but win this game and you prove that you haven’t given up on the year, even with multiple big-name playmakers skipping this game.
Plus, a win Monday would give UCF its third consecutive season with at least 10 wins. The other programs that can claim that? Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Georgia, Oklahoma and Boise State. UCF could prove that it belongs in that elite company.
2. Which UCF player are you expecting a breakout performance from?
Jeff Sharon: I want to see a big day from Marlon Williams. We’ve seen some moments from him but I’m looking for a big breakout game on the outside from him.
Jeremy Brener: Marlon Williams. I expect him to take over for Gabriel Davis next season, and this is his first opportunity with Davis opting not to play today. Williams has had a strong year and I think he has emerged as Dillon Gabriel’s second favorite target after Gabe. He now makes his move to WR1 with a big performance in the bowl game.
Brian Murphy: I keep remembering what Jordan Johnson told us on the night of the bowl announcement: “Bentavious Thompson came up to me and he like, ‘Bro, I’m gonna go out there and ball out for you because this is your last game.’”
Marshall does have a quality run defense, but with Adrian Killins almost certainly not playing, I think Thompson takes on a bigger role, and he has stepped up when called upon this year. His eight rushing TDs still lead the team.
Honorable mention goes to Jacob Harris, who grew up not too far away from here and will likely see more targets with Gabriel Davis out.
3. Which Marshall player should UCF keep an eye on?
Jeff Sharon: Darius Hodge. He has seven sacks on the season, and could cause the offense some trouble if he can get pressure on Dillon Gabriel.
Jeremy Brener: RB Brenden Knox is very very very good. However, if the Knights’ front seven can contain him, they should have a good chance to win this game.
Brian Murphy: It’s unquestionably sophomore RB Brenden Knox, the Conference USA Most Valuable Player this year. He has gained a league-high 1,284 rushing yards and scored 11 TDs. He is an absolute workhorse who has averaged about 25 carries per game over the past seven games, includiing 33 totes in Marshall’s regular-season finale versus FIU. At 6-foot and 220 pounds, he is one of the bigger backs the Knights have faced this year. If the Thundering Herd keep this game close, they will use Knox to ram away at UCF’s defense in the second half. Hopefully the Knights are up to the task and don’t tire.
4. Would a win mark a successful season for UCF?
Jeff Sharon: Oh yeah, I think so. 10 wins is a successful season by any measure.
Jeremy Brener: This is a step back for UCF from last season, so no. However, if you look at this season alone, there is a lot to be happy about.
Even a loss today would put UCF at nine wins with a true freshman quarterback.
I think that McKenzie Milton’s freshman year was deemed as successful because the team made a bowl game after coming off a winless season. But Dillon Gabriel was doomed to fail because he was asked to be perfect... and perfect he was not.
But three losses by a combined seven points is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. It definitely was not an unsuccessful season.
Brian Murphy: It’s not the season any of us expected, but it would still be a successful year, yes. If 10 wins with a freshman quarterback is ultimately seen as a lost year, you need to gain some better perspective.
As I mentioned earlier, UCF would put itself in some elite company with a victory Monday. You’re not always going to go undefeated. Only Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma have suffered fewer than three losses in each of the past three years. To think that UCF should do that every year or else it’s a disappointment, is unrealistic.
5. Score/Attendance Prediction.
Jeff Sharon: UCF 44, Marshall 27. 35,000.
Jeremy Brener: I reckon attendance will be low given it is a Monday afternoon contest, we’ll go with 27,450. I’ll take UCF in a win 38-24.
Brian Murphy: For the final time, I’ll throw out a random five-digit number below 40,000 for the attenance: 24,838.
UCF is a 16-point favorite, and the game has a 61.5 over-under. With a handful of players probably sitting this one out for the Knights, I don’t feel good about giving that many points. Still, UCF is the more talented team and should prevail. 35-24