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UCF’s Week 11 Checklist vs. Tulsa

Here are four things to watch when the Knights and the Golden Hurricane face off amid chilly conditions tonight.

NCAA Football: Memphis at Tulsa
Tulsa Golden Hurricane WR Keylon Stokes
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

1. How do the UCF Knights try to contain Tulsa Golden Hurricane WR Keylon Stokes?

Stokes caught a total of 17 passes for 228 in games against Memphis and Cincinnati last month. The 6-foot junior has shown himself to be a fantastic receiver, but he can also be a terror on special teams. He is a very good kick returner and will also chip in on punt returns. He even got three carries last week versus Tulane, gaining 25 yards. Tulsa wants Stokes to touch the ball in any way possible; he has 1,124 all-purpose yards this year, 20th-most in the FBS. The Knights must track him closely all night long.

2. Who makes a big play on a punt return?

Maybe it’s Stokes? Maybe it’s Otis Anderson? The fact is both of these teams have not excelled in punt coverage. The good news for UCF is that their offense’s high rate of efficiency has limited the Knights to just seven punts all year. But opponents have gained more than 200 yards off of those kicks, making the Knights the worst AAC team in punt return defense.

Meanwhile, the Golden Hurricane are below average in punt return defense and sit at the bottom of the conference in net punting (35.4 yards). Call it a hunch, but I have a feeling we will be talking about a punt return in the aftermath of this one.

3. More third-quarter magic for UCF?

Post hoc ergo propter hoc. I think it is a fallacy to think that UCF’s amazing third quarters recently, especially on defense, are due solely to halftime adjustments. I don't think there is a quality explanation for what has happened in the past two games. It could be something as simple as better execution and/or the opponent not playing smart football.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to seeing if UCF can repeat its post-halftime dominance for a third consecutive week. For what it’s worth, Tulsa has scored only 37 points in the third quarter this season.

4. How will penalties impact the game’s flow and the result?

No matter if this game is a blowout or a nail-biter, it’s safe to say that this is probably going to be looooong.

These are two of the most penalized teams in college football. Actually, no one has done more illegal stuff on the field than the Golden Hurricane. Their 88 penalties and 733 yards lost are tops among the 130 FBS squads. You have to imagine that at least a couple of these many expected flags will have a direct, significant influence on the outcome.