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Knights at the Roundtable: Can UCF Upset #3 Cincinnati on the Road?

The BGB staff talks Knights and Bearcats

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 04 UCF at Cincinnati Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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 fifth roundtable of the football season, Jeff Sharon, Bryson Turner and Andrew Gluchov take their seats at the roundtable to answer questions about the UCF Knights and their matchup with the #3 Cincinnati Bearcats at noon on Saturday.

1) Real talk: Do we have a shot?

Jeff Sharon (@Jeff_Sharon): Sure! It’s college football, man. Anyone can beat anyone. But for it to happen, UCF has to play a perfect game, and even then, they need Cincinnati to have a bad day. That’s how good Cincinnati is.

But I’m a New York Giants fan. That’s what happened in 2007 against the Patriots. You just never know. And in this season, where we’ve already seen more than 35 ranked teams lose so far. NEVER TELL ME THE ODDS!

Bryson Turner (@itsBrysonTurner): We live in a world where an unranked Texas A&M beat Alabama and Oklahoma benched Spencer Rattler and came back to beat Texas. At this point, anything is possible.

One other important thing is that the UCF defense is coming into this game with great momentum. Desmond Ritter might be more Malik Cunningham than Holton Ahlers, but I am much more confident in the UCF defense than I was two weeks ago, and if they can ride that momentum, they might be able to keep the Knights in the game just like they’ve done the past two weeks.

Andrew Gluchov (@StatBoyDrew): Any team can win any game on any given day. There’s always a shot. Mistakes happen and a big play can happen at any time. The question is how likely is it to happen? Even though the law of averages supports the better team, they do not always win the game. That’s why we play them.

2) If UCF wins this game, what will be the reason(s) why?

Jeff: (1) They dominated time of possession and kept Desmond Ridder off the field. (2) They won the turnover battle and turned those turnovers into touchdowns, not field goals. (3) They forced Ridder into being one-dimensional and took it to the receivers. (4) They won special teams.

Bryson: Cincinnati has allowed the 3rd-least passing yard and the 11th-least rushing yards in the nation, so if there was ever a time for Mikey Keene to really click with this offense and not make any freshman mistakes, it’s now. I also think that this game will really need Gus Malzahn to out-coach Luke Fickell like he did last week to ECU’s Mike Houston.

Andrew: UCF needs to pitch a near perfect game. They can’t afford to make mistakes. One of the biggest things they need to establish is momentum on first down. With the Knights most likely going to continue to rely heavily on the run game, they need to get at least 3 yards on first down. They can’t afford to work with a second and long, which usually leads to third down and UCF has struggled to convert. This will help keep the ball in UCF’s hands and increase the time of possession. UCF had the ball for over 27 minutes against East Carolina and it made a difference in keeping the defense fresh. Also, any extra time UCF has the ball just means less time Cincinnati does.

3) What does the UCF defense have to do to stop Desmond Ridder?

Jeff: As I mentioned above, they have to make him one-dimensional. Unlike previous years though, he can beat you with his arm alone. So you have to disguise coverages, keep him in the pocket, and eventually get to him. It’s going to be on the secondary and the outside rushers today.

Bryson: The defense sacked Holton Ahlers four times last week. With the secondary being in the condition it’s in, the best way to stop Ritter is going to have to come from the pass rushers. If they can’t bring him down, then force a mistake.

Andrew: UCF has a bad track record against dual threat quarterbacks. However, Ridder has been focusing on throwing more and running less than in previous years. He needs to continue doing that in order to push his draft stock up. The defensive line needs to pressure Ridder into throwing the ball away more and drive him closer to 50% passing, which will make him start to force his passes.

4) How about the offense? What should be their game plan if they want a shot?

Jeff: Control the ball and get first downs. Dominate time of possession. And for Mikey Keene, it’s going to be about picking his spots, nailing his reads, and frustrating the Bearcat defense on third down by using his legs to extend plays. We know how accurate he is on the run (to me, he’s approaching young McKenzie Milton in that department), so if he can make some plays like he did on that fourth down in the winning drive last week to move the chains, we’ve got a shot.

Bryson: Trust in Gus and find a way. The Bearcat defense has proven difficult to get through all season, so Gus needs to run through his playbook and find a weakness or attempt to catch them off guard. If there was ever a game where the Knights may need to employ some trickery, it’s this one.

Andrew: UCF’s running game is going to have to be on point. The Bearcats secondary is by far the best the Knights will see this season and with the team not at 100%, they are going to need the run to set up the pass. Even then, Mikey Keene is going to have to keenly(pun totally intended) aware of where Sauce Gardner is at all times and not throw in his direction.

5) Score prediction?

Jeff: This still feels like Cincy’s party, but I’m not married to this score: Cincinnati 38, UCF 28

Bryson: Cincy 35, UCF 24

Andrew: Cincinnati 38-13. UCF just isn’t operating with enough horses right now with so many key injuries.