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 first 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 season opener against Florida Atlantic.
1. What is the key for UCF to win this game?
Jeff Sharon: Jump on them and end it early. This is going to be one of FAU’s biggest games in their campus’ history, and they’re going to be amped for it. The most important thing UCF must do is punch them in the mouth right away and score 7 on the first drive, and deflate the building. If FAU manages to hang around like they did in last year’s game (21-17 UCF at the half), because it’s on the road and you don’t have McKenzie Milton, it might get wonky.
Eric Lopez: Get off to a fast start and take the will away from FAU belief in winning the game. Control line of scrimmage.
Derek Warden: Stick to the gameplan and don’t commit turnovers. This is a game we will lose only if we beat ourselves.
Jeremy Brener: Pound the football down their throats. Score early and often. Don’t get complacent.
Brian Murphy: It’s an answer that you could say about every football game, but it will be key for the Knights to control the line of scrimmage, especially on offense. If you watched FAU face Ohio State last week, you saw the Owls’ defense just whip the Buckeyes’ O-line numerous times. Give Wimbush and Gabriel time to throw, open up some running lanes, and UCF could find itself on the right side of a blowout again.
2. How will the secondary respond to the absence of Brandon Moore?
Jeff Sharon: Remember Aaron Robinson? He was the highly-touted player last year who suffered a serious concussion on the opening kickoff of the first game at UConn and was a non-factor the rest of the season. Now he’s going to get his chance to show off that talent. The good thing here is Scott Frost and Josh Heupel have recruited for depth very well on defense, and that will be put to the test now.
Eric Lopez: That the question many will be asking. For this game I think they will respond well with depth they have is better than FAU skill position depth.
Derek Warden: I think FAU will try to test that side of the field early, but we have excellent depth, so that won’t prove to be successful for them.
Jeremy Brener: The whole team knows about the “next man up” mentality. Aaron Robinson and Tay Gowan will look to be those guys, and both of them are hungry and ready. Robinson was on the wrong side of the horrific Game 1 injury last year and is excited to prove his worth. Gowan was playing JUCO last year and is looking for an opportunity to shine. Well, opportunity is knocking. Answer the door.
Brian Murphy: As of now, we don’t know if the team will be sporting a uniform or helmet decal to honor Bam. I’m sure the players will pay tribute to him in their own ways. But I don’t expect his injury and absence to cause the Knights to lose their focus on the matter at hand. We’ll see how they use cornerbacks such as Aaron Robinson, Tay Gowan and Zamari Maxwell to pick up the slack. But because of that change at corner, it’s imperative that the safeties -- Richie Grant and Antwan Collier foremost -- be at the top of their game all evening long.
3. Name one player from FAU that UCF should pay more attention to.
Jeff Sharon: TEs Harrison Bryant and John Raine led the Owls in catches last week at Ohio State with 7 apiece for 108 combined yards and a TD, and they might be a problem in the middle of the field, especially on third downs. UCF’s linebackers will have to monitor them closely in key situations in order to get off the field and keep the area outside the numbers from opening up for big plays.
Eric Lopez: Harrison Bryant- TE Is on John Mackey Watch List. Will be a test for UCF LB and DB that are assigned to him.
Derek Warden: If you just asked me to name on player from FAU, I’d have to respond with “sorry, can’t do it.” Therefore, if we end this game knowing more than one player, we probably struggled mightily.
Jeremy Brener: With the secondary in a tough spot, the Owls will look to get the ball to WR Tavaris Harrison. He averaged 14.3 yards per catch against Ohio State last week, and he appears to be their big play threat. Hopefully the new-look secondary can put a stop to his efforts.
Brian Murphy: The Owls have a future NFL’er in senior tight end Harrison Bryant. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he put together a 45-catch, 662-yard campaign in 2018. He picked up where he left off in Week 1, totaling six catches for a game-high 79 yards. I look forward to watching how UCF’s linebackers and safeties plan to disrupt the connection between Bryant and Owls QB Chris Robison.
4. Who needs to step up for UCF to win this game?
Jeff Sharon: I want to see Brandon Wimbush put on a show. He looked a tad nervous in the early going, but settled down once he was able to use his legs to convert some key third downs. I’d like to see more of his arm, especially on the run, because FAU is probably going to stack the box and dare him to throw. SO take what they give you and make them pay.
Eric Lopez: Aaron Robinson who will be among players ask on to get more playing time as a result as of Brandon Moore injury.
Derek Warden: I would like to see our O-Line establish dominance early - not just in the run game. If we can go into halftime with a comfortable lead and our Defense playing in 2nd half mode, then we should be able to run the ball at will against them and close out the game.
Jeremy Brener: From what last game showed, the running backs will play a larger role in the offense this year as the QB play won’t be as prolific as it was in years’ past. Luckily for the Knights, Adrian Killins and Greg McCrae can both take over a game. If the Knights can commit to a ground game, these two are scary and can run down anyone in their path.
Brian Murphy: I already mentioned the safeties and a few cornerbacks. I brought up the linebackers in passing and talked about the offensive line as well. So, who else needs to show up Saturday?
Brandon Wimbush. Gutsy call, yeah?
It’s not that WImbush needs to “step up” beyond what he accomplished last week versus Florida A&M. But given his much-ballyhooed deep incompletions and UCF’s propensity to keep dialing up those plays, it would be nice to see him hit a couple of those throws to open targets 30-40 yards downfield.
5. Score/attendance prediction.
Jeff Sharon: 41-24 UCF. Sellout: 29,000+, including about 40% UCF fans.
Eric Lopez: UCF 45-17 30k
Derek Warden: UCF - 42, FAU - 24, attendance 30,000 (29,419 capacity)
Jeremy Brener: UCF 45-21. I’ll say there’s 30,001 people at the game, with 15,001 supporting UCF.
Brian Murphy: As of early Friday morning, the Knights are favored by just 10.5 points, per Vegas Insider. That seems like a small margin, but far be it from me to question the line-setters; they are usually pretty accurate. So, I won’t predict an annihilation. However, I just don’t see how the Owls win this game until Robinson plays out of his gourd.
UCF triumphs, 38-21.
FAU Stadium is supposed to have a 30,000-seat capacity. Since this is a hot ticket between two Florida FBS schools, I’ll forecast 28,172.