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 fourth roundtable of the football season, Jeff Sharon, Eric Lopez, Jeremy Brener, Chas Short and Brian Murphy take their seats at the roundtable to answer questions about tomorrow’s much-anticipated matchup against Pittsburgh.
1. What is the biggest key for UCF to win this game?
Jeff Sharon: To quote David Byrne, same as it ever was. Kick Pitt in the teeth with the first possession and get them down two scores early. Pitt hasn’t scored more than 20 points this year, so chances are the earlier you get to that number, the likelier they’ll fold.
Eric Lopez: Keep the Game Up tempo and used speed advantage
Jeremy Brener: Come out in the beginning with a BANG! The Knights tacked on touchdowns with their first four drives last week and it buried Stanford into a hole they could not escape from. UCF needs to continue putting their foot on the gas pedal and not allow Pitt to even sniff this one.
Chas Short: The offensive line needs to keep performing at high level. They’ve given Gabriel such an opportunity to excel and done so well in run blocking too. Keep steady, and UCF should handle Pitt.
Brian Murphy: Pace. The Stanford game was over, for all intents and purposes, by the end of the first quarter. And Pitt, like Stanford, relies on a ball-control, time-consuming offense. If UCF can get on the scoreboard early, force Pittsburgh’s offense into some short, fruitless drives and continue to just look too quick for its competitors, this one could also get out of hand before the crowd has settled into their seats.
2. What UCF player do you expect to have a breakout game?
Jeff Sharon: We saw Randy Charlton cause absolute havoc last week against Stanford, and I’m fully expecting that to continue. Against a relatively weak offensive line, he might spend much of his day in the Pitt backfield.
Eric Lopez: Nate Evans, had 11 total tackles in last year game. Expect him to be in Pitt backfield and near line the whole game.
Jeremy Brener: I think Otis Anderson is due. It seems someone from the backfield is bound to have an incredible game each week, and I think this week it is Otis’s turn. I’m predicting multiple touchdowns for Anderson against Pitt.
Chas Short: Is Randy Charlton’s profile now too high to qualify for having a “breakout” game? He recorded his first career sack against Pitt last year and I’m feeling that we’ll see a big day from him on Saturday. No sophisticated analysis here, just my pure gut reaction.
Brian Murphy: It’s difficult to pinpoint a UCF player who is playing a lot of snaps and who hasn’t yet had a significant impact as the team has outscored its first three opponents 155-41. But strictly from a statistical standpoint, I guarantee that defensive end Randy Charlton will record a sack Saturday. Pitt’s offensive line is having a difficult time replacing four starters from last season, and sophomore left tackle Carter Warren was a swinging gate at times last week during the Panthers’ close loss to Penn State. Defensive end Brendon Hayes has already picked up two sacks this year. It’s past time for Charlton, who was magnificent early on versus Stanford, to get at least one of his own.
3. What Pitt player does UCF need to watch out for?
Jeff Sharon: It’s Kenny Pickett. He runs the show for Pitt. The Panthers have not had anyone emerge at the skill positions, which probably tells you more than what you need to know.
Eric Lopez: WR Maurice Ffrench is their best playmaker at wideout.
Jeremy Brener: If the Knights can slow down Kenny Pickett and limit his abilities, I think UCF will be just fine in this game.
Chas Short: Running back A.J. Davis. Although he hasn’t been extremely successful running up the gut, he can take short passes and pile up serious yardage. There’s a risk there.
Brian Murphy: On defense, there’s no doubt that it is defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman. The Panthers’ D-line has been beset by multiple injuries, but Twyman has really picked up the slack with 4.5 sacks through three games.
On offense, wide receiver Taysir Mack shined against the Nittany Lions last week with some acrobatic catches. He concluded with 12 grabs for 125 yards. He caught just 25 passes last year but averaged 22.3 yards per catch, second-best in the FBS.
4. If UCF were to lose the game, why would it happen?
Jeff Sharon: They would beat themselves. It would be a combination of a multitude of bad turnovers, failure to convert 3rd downs, and Pitt hanging onto the ball for about a week.
Eric Lopez: They would have been outplayed at line of scrimmage by Pitt and turn the ball over too many times.
Jeremy Brener: Dillon Gabriel either has a bad game or an injury and UCF’s offense can’t get off the ground. Pitt has a tendency to play well against top competition, so UCF can’t stroll in and take this one. They will have to fight to earn it.
Chas Short: Very many turnovers. It’s hard for me to see a scenario in which Pitt can keep up with UCF’s offense (the Panthers are averaging a mere 14.7 ppg so far). And I don’t see the Knights breaking their streak of 30+ point games. If Pitt pulls off the upset, it’s because of turnovers.
Brian Murphy: If Dillon Gabriel plays like an actual 18-year-old true freshman quarterback instead of like ... well, Dillon Gabriel, then the Knights might be in trouble. But honestly, if UCF somehow loses, that L will likely come with a turnover margin of at least minus-3.
5. Score/attendance prediction.
Jeff Sharon: UCF 45, Pitt 21. Attendance: Less than good.
Eric Lopez: UCF 41-10 34,284
Jeremy Brener: UCF 49-17. 34,285, just so I can be one more than E-Lo. The good ol’ Price Is Right strategy.
Chas Short: Same score as last year, folks: 45-14. I’ll assume it’s going to be better attended than either of Pitt’s other two home games this year and call it 47,500.
Brian Murphy: Personally, I think a better question is: How many UCF fans will be attendance? Pitt drew an announced crowd of 47,144 for its home opener versus Virginia. So, I’ll use a “Price is Right” tactic and predict an announced crowd of 47,145!
Score: 45-17. The Knights’ lowest point total this season is the 45 points they scored last week versus the Cardinal. Meanwhile, the Panthers have scored a total of 44 points thus far. When I look at Pitt, I see a lot of similarities with Stanford, but with fewer pro prospects and slightly less athletic. As long as the Knights don’t shoot themselves in the foot over and over, they shouldn’t have much of a problem.