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 third roundtable of the football season, Jeff Sharon, Eric Lopez, Derek Warden, Jeremy Brener and Brian Murphy take their seats at the roundtable to answer questions about tomorrow’s much-anticipated matchup against Stanford.
1. What is the biggest key for UCF to win this game?
Eric Lopez: Defense get off the field on 3rd down. Offense convert 3rd downs. Stanford wants to control time and limit possesions. UCF wants uptempo.
Derek Warden: The biggest key will be our Offensive Line. They’ve beaten up lesser opponents, but this will be their first real test. If they let us run for at least 200 yards, then we should win.
Jeff Sharon: The Knights have to keep doing what they’re doing, which is controlling the line of scrimmage. So far, on offense, UCF is running the ball at will at a 325 yard per game clip (6th best in FBS), and that has papered over a bit of shakiness in the passing game. The Knights will have to do that against a bigger, physical Stanford front, especially if the weather is bad.
Brian Murphy: Winning the turnover battle. The Knights have created just one turnover this season, but that’s still one more than they have committed. I honestly don’t think Stanford can keep up without at least a couple of takeaways that give them extra possessions and keep the Knights’ offense sidelined.
Jeremy Brener: Run the ball down Stanford’s throats. The running backs are superior to that of the quarterbacks on UCF’s roster, and I truly believe the running backs can take this team very far, simply because they have the depth there to take them the distance. Keep running the ball and utilizing your four quality running backs. All have the potential to break out for a big game.
Colton Molesky, Rule of Tree: Score, score, score and score some more. Stanford showed against USC that they cannot keep up with any opponent in a shootout. The Cardinal won a depressingly ugly opener against Northwestern, and need just such a game to play with UCF.
2. What is the biggest key for Stanford to win this game?
Eric Lopez: Control the line of scrimmage on both sides.
Derek Warden: The biggest key for Stanford is going to be Time of Possession. The longer they hold the ball, the more likely they are to prevent us from scoring. They should want us to play in a low scoring, defensive slug-fest. Our offense is basically feast or famine, in that we almost always go 3-and-out, or score, and that could play into Stanford’s game plan.
Jeff Sharon: Keep UCF off the field. They have to use their superior size to push UCF around the field and put up some long, time-consuming scoring drives. It’s the only way to keep UCF’s speed from doing to them what USC did.
Brian Murphy: Tempo control. This game will display a huge contrast in styles; the UCF wants to speed it up, and Stanford wants to sloooooow it down. If the Cardinal can get some three-and-outs and complement those stops with some long drives on the other side of the ball, they will have a great chance of making this a very competitive 60 minutes.
Jeremy Brener: Keep the ball out of UCF’s hands. Any team that plays UCF needs to watch the Fiesta Bowl film. It’s the only example of how any team has been able to beat UCF since 2016. You have to keep the ball for majority of the game. The weather this game is likely to see will help Stanford, but for a team that doesn’t play in a whole lot of rain might not be able to capitalize on that advantage.
Colton Molesky, Rule of Tree: Finding a running game in the combination of Cameron Scarlett and Dorian Maddox will be huge. The defense played so poorly against the Trojans, that it might not matter anyway, but establishing a running game to bully UCF is a must. Without star tackle Walker Little, the task is even more daunting, however, this is the only route to find success for the Cardinal.
3. Name the impact player for both teams in this game.
Eric Lopez: QB K.J. Costello- Stanford and RB Greg McRae
Derek Warden: For UCF: whoever plays quarterback, most likely Dillon Gabriel. If the O-Line gives him time and he cleans up some of his missed throws (1st start jitters?), then we should be fine. For Stanford: their freshmen Offensive Tackles. One replaces a potential top-10 player in the 2020 draft, and the other replaces a Junior. And their backups are also freshman, so our D-Line could (and should) feast.
Jeff Sharon: Greg McCrae and Beno Thompson. Wow, did Beno look good against FAU, breaking off a few great runs, including a TD that got called back. He’s got 155 yards on 13 carries this year, and Greg is Greg. They present the most physical running threat UCF can bring to bear.
Brian Murphy: I won’t choose just one UCF player, but its entire defensive line. The Knights’ front leads the nation in tackles for loss per game, and that’s at the heart of why they have allowed just 14 points through two contests. The Cardinal’s O-line poses a test that far surpasses anything this defense has faced this season in terms of size and athleticism, but they will also be without star left tackle Walker Little and right tackle Foster Sarell. Can this defense continue to create pressure and get into the backfield against a wounded but still physically formidable line?
For the Cardinal, I’ll go out on a limb: K.J. Costello. Yes, I think the starting quarterback will be a key player. #analysis
Costello returns to Stanford’s lineup after missing last week’s game at USC due to a concussion. Assuming the weather remains clear, he will need to be at his absolute best to keep the Cardinal close. He’s a future pro who completed 65 percent of his passes last season. He must get the ball out quickly versus this defense, remain accurate and cash in on all red-zone trips in order for Stanford to have a shot.
Jeremy Brener: It’s the running backs: Greg McCrae and Cameron Scarlett. McCrae is the biggest catalyst for UCF on offense, and Scarlett will need to be the biggest offensive creator for Stanford if the Cardinal want a chance to upset the Knights.
Colton Molesky, Rule of Tree: For Stanford, it’s cornerback Paulson Adebo. If he can lock up one side of the field and allow safeties to cheat over the other way or scoot down into the box, it could throw the Knights’ offense into a funk. For the Knights, it’s running back Greg McCrae. Well, since the UCF has four tailbacks with over 100 yards, I suppose it could be whichever back finds a rhythm. A fast-aced offense will cut Stanford, but a fast-paced offense with balance will bury them. If the Knights rush for over 200 yards, they win.
4. What is one thing most fans won’t expect that will happen?
Eric Lopez: UCF will run the football more than Stanford.
Derek Warden: Stanford will score more than 20 points, and gets its starting QB back. David Shaw is a great coach, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he changed up his offense a little bit to offset the loss of his two starting tackles. Perhaps they will add in some short passing/swing passes to compliment their between the tackle runs. Or it won’t rain on Saturday and the weather will a perfect 84, with no humidity. (I can dream, right?!)
Jeff Sharon: The rain and the wind. We’re looking at an 80% chance of rain and 20-mph winds. That could slow the game down and wreak havoc on UCF’s pass attack, not to mention the kicking game.
Brian Murphy: UCF wideout Gabriel Davis possibly being muted by Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo? Knights fans are used to seeing Davis dominate, but let’s see how he fares in a battle against a future first-round NFL Draft pick and perhaps the CB with the best ball skills in the country. This is a matchup I absolute can not wait to track, snap after snap. Let’s hope the rain stays away and doesn’t cause both teams to scrap their passing attacks.
Jeremy Brener: Several delays. This rain does not look promising, but it has the chance to make this a memorable moment for UCF fans this season. A win in the rain sounds like a fun time in retrospect, but in the moment it might make for a not-so-fun time.
Colton Molesky, Rule of Tree: Scarlett will take a screen or run to the house from over 40 yards out. He is a heavy hitter between the tackles but do not sleep on him in space, Scarlett can skrt, skrt with the best of them.
5. Score/attendance prediction.
Eric Lopez: UCF 34-17 44K
Derek Warden: UCF 34, Stanford 26 (it won’t be as close as it looks). Attendance 44,750.
Jeff Sharon: UCF wins, 35-25. Sellout.
Brian Murphy: Attendance: 40,878. That’s a random number that sounds right. Also, I think the threat of rain will cause some people to stay away.
Score: UCF wins 38-17. If a monsoon settles over the stadium, the total will probably be lower. But I feel confident that the Knights will triumph rather comfortably no matter the conditions.
Jeremy Brener: 44,002. UCF wins 42-28.
Colton Molesky, Rule of Tree: The final is 40-31 UCF. Attendance: Spectrum holds 45,301 people, I think they get close to capacity- 43,860.