In this edition of the Roundtable it’s time for the War on I-4.
Jeff Sharon, Andrew Gluchov, and Kyle Nash preview the UCF Knights’ matchup with the South Florida Bulls on Saturday. The game is set for 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.
1. UCF is an 18.5-point favorite. Does that show faith in UCF or lack thereof in South Florida?
Jeff Sharon (@Jeff_Sharon): About 25%/75%. UCF is 6-0 at home this year, and Mikey Keene has performed well in his last four games (10 TD/1 INT, 210 yards/game). But after putting mild scares into Houston and Cincinnati at home, South Florida completely laid an egg against Tulane. Had they shown a pulse in that game, I think it would have been different.
And yet I’m still uncomfortable.
Andrew Gluchov (@StatBoyDrew): Vegas has been very pro-UCF in their odds this year, even though the Knights are not playing with a full deck. Considering where Vegas pegged the UCF vs UConn game, this spread is fair.
Kyle Nash (@TheSoTG): Definitely a lack of faith in the slime green away team. When a team’s injury list is so long that it even includes the coach, that should be an opportunity for an away team to pull into town and achieve the upset, not lose by a margin greater than two scores.
2. The all-time series is tied, 6-6. Given that this might be the last War on I-4 ever at the Bounce House, how big is this for UCF?
Jeff: Well, if UCF loses, we can only tie it before leaving the Bulls behind. So there’s that. But more importantly, a win over a rival like this gives you a huge springboard toward the bowl game. I don’t even really care where or who we play in the bowl. Just beat these guys and the season is a success.
Andrew: There are some South Florida fans that are trying to use series that date back to the 80s and 90s when UCF athletics wasn’t very good as a way of justifying some sort of dominance. South Florida was always a step ahead of UCF in terms of conference affiliation until they became equal in 2013. Since then, the states of the athletic departments at the two schools can’t be much more different. UCF has flat-out dominated South Florida as a whole and that’s why the Knights are moving to the Big 12 and the Bulls are not. UCF neds to put an exclamation point on this series by winning the next two and moving on to greener pastures.
Kyle: This win has the potential to assure that in the football history books USF cannot be superior in football, no matter how many seconds one team may have been #2 in the nation.
3. South Florida just fired their defensive coordinator. Does that make their defense dangerous?
Jeff: Yes. We have no idea what they’re going to do. I’ve seen way too many times where a coordinator gets the axe before a big game and that unit suddenly is infused with energy. Of course, I’ve also seen the opposite. But you better believe the Bulls’ defense is going to be ready for this one.
Andrew: It makes them unpredictable. UCF knows what they’re good at and will pretty much dare South Florida to try and stop them. Stack the box? The passing game has been very efficient with Ryan O’Keefe and Brandon Johnson leading the way. Drop more into coverage, the running game is still dangerous with Mark-Antony Richards inside and Johnny Richardson outside.
Kyle: I appreciate that coach Malzahn alluded to the lack of game film on the acting defensive coordinator at the press conference Monday. But are we to believe that this (or any coach) is wise to implement a truly new game plan for a team with two wins on the current year in a short week in a rivalry game? To put it politely, that is an awful lot to ask.
4. South Florida QB Timmy McClain is playing in front of his hometown fans. How problematic could he be for UCF’s defense?
Look at this beautiful pass from McClain to Gregory to set up the touchdown rush by Timmy pic.twitter.com/Kohpzbvn21— The Daily Stampede (@StampedeSBN) October 16, 2021
Jeff: He’s a dual-threat guy, and as Eric Lopez likes to remind us on a weekly basis, UCF has a lot of trouble historically against dual-threat guys. Now, he’s still young, but you better believe he wants to put on a show for his hometown folks — Wouldn’t you?
Andrew: Timmy McClain is one of the bright spots for the Bulls. He’s young and learning, much like Mikey Keene. The difference is that Keene has a way better team around him and it shows. UCF’s defense had a chance to do a little experimenting last week at linebacker due to the position being thin. That should help this week to help the rotation stay fresh and keep McClain from getting comfortable.
Kyle: Five touchdowns to seven interceptions while averaging less than 167 yards passing. Not exactly the intimidating force one hopes for in their team’s field general. That being said, should the Bulls establish the run early he might be able to complete a touchdown pass or two.
5. Score predictions!
Jeff: UCF wins, but not without some bitten nails.
Andrew: While it is a rivalry game and weird things do happen, I don’t see it happening this time around. UCF 31-10.
Kyle: UCF wins, but fails to cover with the score at 31-20. UCF Fans will complain USF wasn’t beaten badly enough like last year while still throwing the horns down sign.