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#11 UCF vs. Tulsa: Preview and Prediction

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The 2-0 Knights host their home opener against a familiar and annoying road foe

Stanford v Central Florida
It won’t be this full or this nice out when UCF faces Tulsa Saturday.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The #11 UCF Knights open The Bounce House in 2020 with a big revenge game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Saturday.

ESPN2 will carry the game live, but the weather might be dicey, as you will see below.


Kickoff

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: The Bounce House

Gametime Weather:

Line: UCF -21, Over/under 70 (OddsShark)

Threads:

TV

Network: ESPN2

Crew: Jason Benetti (Play-by-play) and Rod Gilmore (Analyst)

Series

All-time: Tulsa leads 8-3, including the last three. UCF is 3-3 against Tulsa at home. The last UCF win was in 2014.

Last Meeting: Last year. UCF lost, 34-31. The Knights were up 28-17 at halftime but beat themselves with penalties, turnovers, sacks, and just three points in the second half.

Of note: UCF and Tulsa have played in conference title games three times, all in C-USA. Tulsa has won two of them.

Tulsa Coming In

The Golden Hurricane are coming off an unplanned bye week after their game with Arkansas State was postponed due to COVID. They faced Oklahoma State in Stillwater in their opener two weeks ago, and led 7-3 at the start of the fourth before collapsing in the 4th en route to a 16-7 loss.

Head Coach: Philip Montgomery. Montgomery is a disciple of Art Briles, having worked as his offensive coordinator and QB coach at both Houston and Baylor. He has coached the likes of Robert Griffin III, Bryce Petty and Kevin Kolb.

Montgomery was the OC at Baylor when UCF beat the Bears in the Fiesta Bowl. He has a 25-38 record in six seasons at Tulsa, but is 3-0 against UCF.

What to Watch For

When UCF Has the Ball

UCF vs East Carolina Football
Dillon Gabriel
Photo by Conor Kvatek/Collegiate Images via Getty Images

Tulsa’s defense is much improved this year, having held Oklahoma State to just 2.8 yards per carry on the ground (141 yards on 50 carries) and 143 yards through the air, although Oklahoma State had trouble settling on a QB two weeks ago. But if the weather is bad, as is predicted, UCF may have to rely on the running game more than usual. Tulsa also forced two turnovers, which is something that bit the Knights in last year’s match-up.

UCF must also rectify the penalties and protect Dillon Gabriel. The Knights committed 15 penalties for 120 yards in last year’s game, including a personal foul and an intentional grounding the last time they had the ball, and a 12 men on the field penalty when they stopped Tulsa on 4th & 1 at the UCF 44 in the final minute when down 3. The Knights also gave up six sacks, so their relatively inexperienced offensive line must step up if the offense if going to operate at its usual pace.

When Tulsa Has the Ball

Tulsa v Oklahoma State
Tulsa QB Zach Smith
Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Tulsa got an average performance out of QB Zach Smith in their opener (18/28, 165 yards, 1 TD/1 INT), but the guy who stepped up was RB Deneric Prince. The 6-1, 214-pound transfer from Texas A&M took over for the injured Shamari Brooks (who is out all year with a torn ACL) and put up a physically impressive performance with 82 yards on 14 carries, and he would have had a TD had he not gotten facemasked on a 4th quarter run where he was gone, but the facemask slowed him down enough to be brought down at the 5. Tulsa self-destructed in the ensuing goal-to-go situation, missed a 28-yard field goal, and that was that.

The UCF front must be very physical with Tulsa, slow down Prince and his cohorts, and pressure Smith in order to force their customary turnovers and keep Tulsa off-balance.

Remember when?

2007: UCF avenged their loss to Tulsa in the first conference title game played at The Bounce House in its inaugural season, 44-25.

Kevin Smith was the star, running for 284 yards on 39 carries and four touchdowns, including the cherry on top in the fourth quarter that became an epic UCF moment:

Prediction

The weather might be a factor in lowering the score, but I’ll stick with my RoundTable prediction. 41-24, UCF.

Get Prepped

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