U-C-F (3-2) at S-M-U (4-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 15th, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000) -- Dallas, Texas. Television: FSN. Home Record: UCF 3-0, SMU 2-0. Away Record: UCF 0-2, SMU 2-1. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, SMU 0-0. Conference Record: UCF 1-0, SMU 2-0. Series Record: UCF leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: The rematch of the 2010 Conference-USA championship game is set to take place this Saturday afternoon when the SMU Mustangs host the UCF Knights at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
This is only the fourth meeting between the two schools on the football field, with the previous three matchups going to UCF, including a 17-7 victory over the Mustangs in the title game last season.
The Knights were finally able to get back into the win column this past weekend, as they narrowly defeated Marshall, 16-6. It was a much needed win for UCF, which lost back-to-back games to FIU and BYU. Both losses came by seven points, tough to swallow after the team opened the year with wins over Charleston Southern and Boston College and outscored both of those programs by a combined margin of 92-3.
The Mustangs stampede into this game riding a wave of momentum. After opening the year with a loss to Texas A&M, the Mustangs have won four straight games, including an outstanding, 40-33, overtime decision on the road over TCU, which was ranked 20th at the time. It was the first win over a ranked opponent for SMU, since the team defeated the Horned Frogs when they were 22nd in the nation back in 2005. It was the first road non-conference win for the Mustangs since 1998 and with the win the team is now 4-1 to start the year for the first time since 1986.
The Knights were able to claim a victory over Marshall this past weekend even with their quarterback struggling to find his groove. Jeff Godfrey only completed 13-of-22 passing against the Thundering Herd and finished with just 147 yards and one score.
However, the team did not need its quarterback to carry the offense, because that task was taken care of by the rushing attack, which abused Marshall for 240 yards. Brynn Harvey did most of the damage for UCF, as the tailback rumbled for 180 yards on 30 carries.
UCF's rushing attack has been devastating throughout the season and that is because there is more than one horse in the stable. Harvey is leading the team with 326 rushing yards, while Ronnie Weaver is second in line with 201 yards. UCF has scored 15 rushing touchdowns on the year and eight have come from Godfrey.
The quarterback might have more than half of the team's rushing TDs, but he comes into this weekend with only one score through the air, which is definitely unacceptable. Godfrey has completed 67.0 percent of his throws, but comes into this contest with only 887 yards and two interceptions.
The rushing attack came only carry this offense so far, because soon or later the team will need Godfrey to step up his production drastically.
The reason the Knights have survived for three wins is because the defense is strong enough to carry an offense that is as balanced as a three-legged dog. UCF has allowed only 50 points in its first five games and has been tenacious against the run and the pass.
Coming into this weekend opponents are averaging a mere 77.4 ypg on the ground against UCF, which is eighth best in the nation. The team is just as menacing against the pass, holding teams to just 100.2 ypg through the air and the secondary has not allowed a single passing touchdown thus far. All that makes this defense the second best ranked unit in the nation.
The Knights flexed their defensive muscle this past weekend, as they held Marshall to just six points. UCF surrendered only 130 total yards, and six first downs. Marshall was just 2-of-14 on third downs and now through five games, opponents are converting just 24 percent of their third down chances against this defense.
Josh Linam, who is leading the team with 28 tackles, racked up six in the win over Marshall.
If there was one knock on this unit, it would be its lack of big plays. The Knights come into this game with only six takeaways and seven sacks.
SMU is starting to get noticed by the national polls and rightfully so, as the team is coming off a huge win against TCU on the road. The offense proved it was dangerous by scoring 40 points against TCU, which is usually a very stingy defensive squad.
J.J. McDermott lit up the sky against the Horned Frogs, throwing for 349 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns went to Darius Johnson, who finished with 152 yards on 12 receptions. It was by far the best performance on the year for McDermott, who now has eight touchdowns and 1,482 yards passing.
Zach Line was not overwhelming in the win, but SMU's tailback did enough to give the Mustangs a balanced attack, as he rumbled for 120 yards on 21 carries. Despite the pedestrian showing against TCU, Line has been the biggest threat for this offense, which is averaging 32.8 ppg, as the tailback is pacing the squad with 583 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Knights are eighth in the nation in stopping the run, but the Mustangs are not far behind them, as they come into this matchups 11th in the nation, holding teams to just 85.4 ypg.
Overall this unit is limiting the opposition to just 211.2 ypg, but teams have managed to score some points against this defense, averaging 20.6 ppg.
TCU was able to post 33 points against SMU, which is more than the combined total of points this defense allowed in its three previous victories (24). The Mustangs showed some cracks in the armor in the win this past weekend, as the defense surrendered 150 rushing yards and another 304 yards through the air.
SMU did force one turnover in the win, but on the year this defense has lacked big play ability, forcing just five miscues on the season. The team has been able to put mild pressure on opposing quarterbacks and comes into this game with 15 sacks. However, five have come from Taylor Thompson.
Last year's title game was a low-scoring, grueling bout between two evenly matched teams. Look for more of the same this time around. UCF and SMU will rely heavily on the run and the team with the fewest mistakes and better field position should come out on top. The biggest difference could be Line, who is proving to be one of, if not, the top back in the conference. If Line can find running room then the Mustangs should remain in the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 17, UCF 14
10/12 10:37:39 ET