UCF (5-2) at Connecticut (1-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 1, 12 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rentschler Field (40,000) -- East Hartford, Connecticut. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: UCF 4-0, UConn 1-3. Away Record: UCF 1-1, UConn 0-3. Neutral Record: UCF 0-1, UConn 0-0. Conference Record: UCF 3-0, UConn 0-4. Series Record: UCF leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The red-hot UCF Knights will play their first road game in nearly on a month when they battle the Connecticut Huskies in an American Athletic Conference matchup at Rentschler Field on Saturday afternoon.
The Knights fell to 0-2 after the first two games of the season, but have been on a tear ever since, winning each of their last five bouts. Of course, it helps that they have played four of those contests at home, with the lone road test ending in a 17-12 victory at Houston on Oct. 2. UCF is 5-2 overall, and is tied with East Carolina for first place in the AAC (3-0).
UConn cannot claim the same type of success as UCF, as the team has yet to win a game in conference (0-4) and is just 1-6 overall. The Huskies' only win wasn't all that impressive, as they topped FCS foe Stony Brook by a score of 19-16.
If last season's meeting, the first-ever between the programs, is any indication, UConn isn't likely to post a win this week. The Knights rolled to a 62-17 victory in that game behind four touchdown passes from Blake Bortles.
It definitely isn't news, but Bortles is no longer under center for the Knights, and the team's offensive performance has clearly suffered. They are averaging only 25.3 points and 316 yards per game.
Justin Holman has had the unenviable task of replacing Bortles this season, and he has done an admirable job, but still has a long way to go before he reaches the level of play of his predecessor. Holman has completed 57.5 percent of his passes for 1,434 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He put forth one of his best performances of the season last week against Temple, throwing for 336 yards and two scores on 25-of-39 passing.
Holman may be without one of his favorite receivers this week, as Rannell Hall is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. Hall leads the team in receptions (28), although he has only 299 yards to show for it. Breshad Perriman has been a more explosive threat, with 544 yards and four scores on 24 catches. J.J. Worton (20 receptions, 244 yards, two TDs) and Josh Reese (15 receptions, 241 yards, two TDs) will also get some looks down field.
William Stanback is the primary option on the ground, although he is far from an exciting runner. He is averaging only 3.3 yards per carry, picking up 364 yards and six touchdowns on 109 attempts. Dontravious Wilson (171 yards) and Holman (112 yards, three TDs) have also failed to have much success on the ground for a team averaging less than three yards per attempt.
The plodding offense has not been much of a problem for UCF because the Knights have been so effective on defense. They rank second in the AAC in points allowed (19.1 ppg), while sitting at the very top of the conference in total defense (305.6 ypg). It is rather easy to limit opposing offenses if you can create pressure, and no team in the league does that better than UCF, which has 21 sacks and 53 tackles for loss.
Facing such a dominating defense will be extremely difficult for UConn, which hasn't been effective on offense even against less stringent opponents. Connecticut is next-to-last in the AAC in total offense (276.3 ypg). The Huskies have also scored only 98 points, making them one of two teams nationally to be below 100 this season. The other is SMU.
Last week, in a 31-21 loss to ECU, the Huskies showed a bit more punch on offense, finishing with 397 total yards. Key to that production was the play of Chandler Whitmer, who threw for a season-high 303 yards to go with two scores, while completing 18-of-30 pass attempts. However, he was also picked off once, bring his season total to four, compared to seven touchdown tosses. He also has just 1,159 yards on 56 percent passing.
Deshon Foxx put forth one of his best efforts of the season against ECU as well, tallying 120 yards and a touchdown on four receptions. Foxx is still the second option on the team, however, with Geremy Davis (34 receptions, 436 yards, three TDs) leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns. Foxx has caught 17 total passes this season, with Dhameer Bradley (11 receptions) the only other receiver with more than 10 grabs.
A trio of running backs have gotten a chance to impress for UConn, but none have really succeeded. Max DeLorenzo (194 yards) leads the team in rushing yards, but he is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. Ron Johnson (153 yards) and Arkeel Newsome (139 yards) aren't running anybody over either.
If there is a bright spot for UConn it is the defense, which has held up well enough in allowing just 26.4 points and 361.4 yards per game. In fact, the Huskies rank fourth in the AAC in total defense. However, against ECU, the unit did not look so great, allowing 580 yards to the high-powered Pirates.
UCF may not have the same offensive talent as ECU, but its defense will certainly have its way with the usually inept UConn attack. Perhaps the Huskies can keep it close with strong play from their own defense, but that's the best they can hope for.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 27, Connecticut 10
10/29 10:37:21 ET