Each week during the football season, a few of us on staff will answer five questions regarding the Knights’ upcoming game. 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 latest roundtable of the football season, Jeff Sharon, Bryson Turner and Andrew Gluchov take their seats to answer questions about the UCF Knights and their matchup with the Memphis Tigers in UCF’s annual Space Game on Friday.
1) Did we learn anything from last week at Cincy or should Gus Malzahn just burn the tape?
Jeff Sharon (@Jeff_Sharon): Burn it. Cincy is really good and they showed why. Anything we may have learned we already knew, such as the importance of Isaiah Bowser and the Knights’ shortcomings with stopping the run.
Bryson Turner (@itsBrysonTurner): It depends on how you define “anything.” We learned that Isaiah Bowser was back for instance. Give him another week of rest and we could see him back to close too 100 percent this week. I would not discount the performance of the defense last week since the unit did not allow any touchdowns on Bearcat drives that started in their own territory. To me, this shows that this unit is improving and able to make adjustments when something it isn’t working. Then again, the Bearcats could have also just took their feet off the gas, who’s to say?
Andrew Gluchov (@StatBoyDrew): Keep it. A good old fashioned beatdown is a great reminder of how hard it is to get to the top and what it is like to be on the receiving end. That bad taste serves as great motivation to never want to experience it again. It worked for Desmond Ridder. He has said the 2017 game against UCF helped push him. Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell also has said that the 2017 and 2018 games showed them where they were, what they needed to work on, and how far they still had to go to get to the top.
2) Memphis has a top-10 offense. What must UCF do to stop them?
Jeff: Fortunately, Memphis plays right into UCF’s strength on defense, which is defending the pass. The thing is, as we have learned from previous games against Memphis, is they may not be afraid to go against the grain and pound the rock. So again, clogging up those gaps is going to be key.
Bryson: This offense goes through QB Seth Henigan, who has thrown for the 6th-most passing yards in the FBS this season, and his two leading receivers, WR Calvin Austin and TE Sean Dykes. The duo account for almost 56 percent of the team’s receptions, 60 percent of the team’s receiving yards, and 13 of the team’s 16 receiving touchdowns this season. This does not mention the last time they faced the Knights, under then-Tiger QB Brady White, when they combined for 15 receptions, 208 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. Either the pass rushers need to pressure Henigan into making a some freshman mistakes, or the UCF secondary will need to be on the mark, especially on Austin and Dykes, to have a shot at stopping this Tiger offense.
Andrew: Force Seth Henigan to hurry up and get him rattled. He’s a freshman and the Bounce House can be a very hostile place to play. He needs to get in his own way. The defensive backs need a third big game. They have done a fantastic job containing good quarterbacks over the last two weeks with Holton Ahlers and Desmond Ridder having below average games.
3) Isaiah Bowser is back. How should he help UCF’s game plan?
Jeff: Nothing helps out a freshman QB like a good running game. Bowser’s time away has been a real struggle for UCF. He’s so patient in waiting to hit the hole that he gives the offensive line confidence. So if UCF wants to keep Memphis’ offense off the field, he has to have a good night and gain some chunks of yardage.
Bryson: As long as he’s back at 100 percent, it can finally allow Mikey Keene to take some of the load off. Johnny Richardson is an explosive player, and a great change-of-pace, but he’s not the kind of running back you want to have to make defenses respect the rushing attack. Now that Bowser is here to do just that, it should allow Mikey Keene some more breathing room to be game manager without having to be leaned on as much.
Andrew: UCF needs to ride Bowser. The run sets up the pass and the more pressure you can take off Mikey Keene, the better. The second half of the season starts now and the slate is clean, so unlike sticking to a script in Cincinnati, all bets are off against Memphis.
4) Special teams were not so special last week. What do the Knights have to clean up?
Jeff: I’m a bit surprised at the punting game. UCF is 110th in FBS in net punting (36.56 net yards/punt) and 90th in punt return average (5.73 yards/return). Andrew Osteen’s average per punt is down some three yards from last year (43.9 to 40.6). I don’t know what’s going on with that unit but clearly there’s room for improvement.
Bryson: The special teams miscues we've seen the past few weeks really boil down to sticking to your assignment. As a returner, you either need to make sure you catch the ball or get the heck away from it. As a punter, make sure you punt the ball square on. As a blocker, stay aware of your assignments and protect the punter/kicker. Stick to that, and they should return to form.
Andrew: The blocking issues are all mental. Players need to be aware of their blocking assignments. There has been a blocked punt and tipped punt this season and there is no excuse at all for that. Returners need to make smart decisions. If you’re in the compromised position trying to catch a kick, don’t do it. There needs to be some spatial awareness going on.
5) Favorite Space Game uniform. Go.
Jeff: I’m partial to last year’s gray uniforms, but selfishly, I’m holding out until we see one with Canaveral Blue as the main color. That would be blue-flame awesome.
Bryson: I’m no uniform connoisseur like Drew, but I love a uniform with some contrast to give that extra pizzazz. The 2020 Space Game uniforms have that in spades. Plus, I haven’t seen a Space Game uniform that used Canavarel Blue better than last year’s. Considering the neutral colors that usually come with these uniforms, how one handles the small amount of non-neutral color can separate an alright uniform with a great one. Though I will say that this year’s uniforms do a great job of fitting the theme of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the space shuttle, so that is an easy second place.
Andrew: I love the 2018 uniforms. Overall, they’re the complete package. The emphasis on the Canaveral blue as a stronger accent in the helmet makes the whole thing pop. The 2019 helmets are the most unique and the 2021 uniform is the most clean with the coolest concept for a helmet strip I might have ever seen. Listing the alums involved with the space program is one of the most thoughtful things I’ve seen done. I hope every one of those people list get one of the helmets.
6) Score prediction?
Jeff: We win!
Bryson: UCF 38, Memphis 35
Andrew: UCF 28 Memphis 24