(15) UCF (7-1) at Temple (1-8)
Saturday, November 16, 12 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Pitting the best against the worst that the newly-created American Athletic Conference has to offer, the 15th-ranked UCF Knights travel to Philadelphia this weekend to do battle with the suffering Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Knights are the cream of the crop in the AAC, sporting a record of 4-0, the only team that has yet to lose a league outing. Since bowing to South Carolina by a mere three points at home back in late September, UCF has gone undefeated, albeit in just four games.
The Knights last took the field on Nov. 9 versus Houston and nearly landed in the loss column again before pulling out a 19-14 victory in Orlando.
"I've been around football a long time and it doesn't get any closer than that," UCF head coach George O'Leary said. "We made the play on defense. The coverage was good. I thought the kids hung in there and did what they had to do at the end to win the game."
While the Knights continue to bask in the glow of being the top team in the conference, the Owls are at the other end of the spectrum right now with just a single win in nine opportunities. Temple kicked off the 2013 campaign with six straight defeats before topping Army at home last month, 33-14. But since then the team has bowed twice, first to SMU (59-49) and then Rutgers (23-20) on Nov. 2 in a game that could have easily gone in favor of the Owls.
Even though these two teams compete in the same conference, this is in fact their first-ever meeting.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Knights began showing signs of life against Houston, although Shawn Moffitt's two field goals in the second frame were just a prelude of what was to come. While quarterback Blake Bortles was converting 17-of-24 passes for 210 yards, it was William Stanback who took over for the UCF offense and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns for the squad. Stanback finished with nine carries for 74 yards.
Against a Houston offense that has great potential, the Knights clamped down and allowed just 367 yards on 75 plays, limiting the visitors to less than 25 minutes of possession. E.J. Dunston tallied just four tackles for the hosts, but two of those came as sacks, while Jacoby Glenn registered an interception and a forced fumble along the way.
"The effort was outstanding," coach O'Leary said of his defense. "We were really down people (due to injuries). But I thought the kids hung in there and did what they had to do at the end to win the game. I thought the effort was great and really kept us in the game."
In terms of defense overall this season, UCF currently ranks fourth in the conference and 23rd in the nation with only 351.3 ypg allowed. Glenn may have only two interceptions at the moment, but he is easily one of the top pass defenders in the conference with 10 pass breakups and 12 passes defended.
Bortles is the leader of the offense, having converted better than 67 percent of his pass attempts for 15 touchdowns and only five INTs, but having Stanback (five TDs) and Storm Johnson (719 yards, nine TDs) ready to break out of the backfield has to be a good feeling for the quarterback.
Bringing up the rear in the AAC, the Owls can't seem to do much of anything right these days. The defense has been particularly woeful with Temple ranking 10th in the conference and 117th in the nation with a staggering 507.9 ypg allowed. The secondary has taken a huge beating with 322.2 ypg permitted, again 10th in the league and 121st in the country.
On the offensive side, the outlook may not look quite as bleak, but it isn't very promising either. After nine games the Owls are producing just 22.3 ppg (99th nationally), stemming from 150.9 ypg rushing (97th) and 222.9 ypg through the air (72nd).
While he may be second on the unit in terms of total rushing yards, trailing Zaire Williams who has 486, Kenneth Harper could be the top offensive threat for Temple these days given that he has scored nine touchdowns on the ground and is averaging a solid 4.5 yards per carry.
Although he is just a freshman, P.J. Walker is slated to get the start at quarterback for the hosts, thanks in large part to his accuracy (.625) and his 11 touchdowns against five INTs in six games.
Head coach Matt Rhule has stepped into a tough situation in the City of Brotherly Love and going up against the Knights won't solve anything. While the potential for anything to happen is always there, this is a game that UCF can not afford to squander.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 35, Temple 17
11/14 15:06:59 ET