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 Knight Nation, to see if they agree or disagree with the crew at BGB.
In this final 2020 edition of the Round Table, Jeff Sharon, Jeremy Brener, Eric Lopez, Brian Murphy and Andrew Gluchov take their seats to answer questions about tomorrow’s game against BYU.
1) Is BYU the best team UCF has faced this season?
Jeff Sharon (@Jeff_Sharon): It’s a coin flip between them and Cincinnati, but I give the Bearcats the edge thanks to their stout defense. As good as BYU is, Cincinnati performed slightly better against a tougher schedule. BYU blew out a bunch of Sun Belt and C-USA teams.
Jeremy Brener (@JeremyBrener): Between BYU and Cincinnati, it’s awfully close. I do think Zach Wilson is the best quarterback UCF has faced this season, and it should be a good test for this defense that has a lot of young pieces returning in 2021.
Eric Lopez (@EricLopezELO): No. I think Cincinnati is much better overall team over BYU. I do think BYU is the second-best team they have seen. I also think UCF is the best team BYU has played, and yes, I am including Coastal Carolina. Go find me a position where you take Coastal over UCF on the roster, talent-wise.
Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy): I think so. The next-best option is those Bearcats, but BYU has a better quarterback and a more dangerous group of skill players with the likes of running back Tyler Allgeier, Milne and Gunner Romney out wide, and tight end Isaac Rex. Defensively, this team is allowing just about 15 points per game and ranks among the nation’s top 25 against the pass, the run and in the red zone. They also don’t give up a lot of negative plays or commit many penalties. Between the Cougars and the Bearcats, I think BYU is the more complete team.
Andrew Gluchov (@StatBoyDrew): It's the best offense by far, but I think their defensive ranking is inflated by the fact they haven't played against good offenses. The best offense they played against was Coastal Carolina and they were 26th in offense. They played against multiple offenses ranked worse than 100th. I think Cincinnati is a more complete team, but BYU will be a very tough challenge.
2) With several Knights potentially moving on including RB Greg McCrae and WR Marlon Williams, who are you expecting to step up?
Edit: WR Marlon Williams will not play in the Boca Bowl, while RB Greg McCrae is traveling with the team and could play Tuesday night.
Jeff: This is Beno Thompson’s moment. He had his first 100-yard performance against South Florida and will be relied upon heavily in this game to soften up BYU’s front.
Jeremy: Bentavious Thompson has ascended to the top of the depth chart at running back, an important cog in the machine that is the offense. We’ve seen flashes of #1 back potential from Thompson (see: War on I-4), but we need to get that at a more consistent rate. Back-to-back games of triple-digit yardage would certainly make me hopeful.
Eric: Tatum Bethune. I think you can argue that Bethune should have played more earlier in the season and maybe even should have started at linebacker from the beginning. I think Bethune will be one of the leaders on defense in 2021.
Brian: Don’t forget safeties Aaron Robinson (who definitely won’t play) and Richie Grant (who may not play). That means you’re going to see a lot of snaps for Divaad Wilson at nickelback. Wilson, Derek Gainous and Jermaine McMillian will have their hands full at the back end of UCF’s defense. I’m also intrigued to see if wide receiver Dionte Marks will play meaningful minutes. The University of Florida transfer will suit up thanks to the D-I Council’s immediate-eligibility decision last week. He’s been practicing with the Knights for months.
Andrew: Numerous players have stepped up this season and already made a name for themselves like Jaylon Robinson and Tatum Bethune. This is Bentavious Thompson's time to shine. He's going to be the man going into spring practices and this is an opportunity to solidify that.
3) Which BYU player other than Zach Wilson should UCF keep an eye on?
Jeff: UCF has had issues with opposing linebackers this year (see: Collins, Zaven) and Isaiah Kaufusi fits that bill. He leads the Cougars in tackles (75) and sacks (4), and has caused four turnovers this year. UCF’s O-Line has to neutralize this guy or Dillon Gabriel is going to have some issues.
Jeremy: Zach Wilson is a can’t miss guy, but so is RB Tyler Allgeier. He’s looking to reach 1,000 yards in just his sophomore season (43 yards will get him there), and he also has 12 touchdowns this season on the ground. The front seven needs to contain his production if they want a chance to win.
Eric: Dax Milne is the go-to wideout for Wilson. He leads BYU with 63 receptions, 1,118 yards and eight touchdowns. UCF will need to contain him the best they can.
Brian: I love me some Isaac Rex. The tight end has just 32 receptions this season but 10 of them have gone for touchdowns. And his game is simple: At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, just toss it up to him and he’ll go get it. He presents a bad matchup for UCF, one the Cougars will look to exploit when they get near the goal line.
Andrew: Imitation is the highest form of flattery and I'm with Jeff. UCF does not do all that well against strong linebackers and with this looking like a possible scorefest, someone on either defense is going to have to step up.
4) What would a win in Boca mean for the program at-large?
Jeff: It would be a nice ending to a year that had a lot of ups and downs. BYU was a playoff contender until they lost to Coastal Carolina. It’s always good to end the year with a win, especially against a team that had as good a year as BYU has had. A really nice performance by Dillon Gabriel head-to-head against Zach WIlson would also boost his preseason Heisman hype.
Jeremy: It’s significant because it sets the tone for 2021. Next year, which could be Dillon Gabriel’s last, is possibly DG’s best chance at replicating 2017. We thought that could be this year. Remember back in September when UCF was #8 in the country? The team has a chance to be even better next year and a win in Boca would kick-start some momentum for the team going into spring.
Eric: I do not put much weight on bowl games, win or lose, especially any non-New Year’s Six bowl game. Remember: UCF lost to Arkansas State by 18 at the Cure Bowl in 2016. How did that affect 2017 season? Exactly: It did not. I just hope the game is an entertaining one.
Brian: A loss would sting for a day or two but will ultimately fade into oblivion. A win would be a fantastic feather in the Knights’ cap. Knocking off a ranked team to close out this most difficult season would be incredibly fulfilling. An early Christmas gift. But if you think the result of this game will leave a lasting imprint on the future of the program ... No, it won’t. If you think that it will, stop thinking that. This is an exhibition.
Andrew: A win could potentially land UCF back into the top 25 and it would be their fourth consecutive year ending the season ranked. It would be some nice redemption for the struggles the Knights have had this year. A loss stings, but it really depends on how bad the loss is. A one score loss is a shrug your shoulders thing and move on. A blowout might force you to analyze why.
5) Score prediction?
Jeremy: BYU edges UCF, 42-38. An entertaining game from start to finish, but ultimately BYU finishes it off.
Eric: UCF 45, BYU 38
Brian: So, there has been some movement since BYU opened as a four-point favorite. They are now at -7, according to Vegas Insider, and the over-under has ticked up from 70 to 72. I still think the over is the easier play. BYU’s defense is very good, but this is a step up in class for the Cougars. I think both teams are a lock for at least 30 points, and with UCF’s deficiencies on defense, I think the Knights will be hard-pressed to keep the Cougars under 40 — a point total BYU has reached in eight of 11 games this season.
Ultimately, I think the Knights’ secondary won’t be able to stop Wilson and company enough. Dillon Gabriel will keep the Knights in it, but I’ll take BYU and lay the points.
Andrew: I think the score is going to be surprisingly lower than anticipated in that no one hits 40. BYU has a better defense than UCF by a wide margin and I think it does enough to keep the score in the Cougars' favor. BYU 38-31.