(15) UCF (10-1) at SMU (5-6)
Saturday, December 7, 12 p.m. (ET)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The top team in the American Athletic Conference aims to close out
the regular season on a positive note, as the 15th-ranked UCF Knights go up
against the SMU Mustangs at Ford Stadium on Saturday.
Last week, the Knights ran their win streak to seven in a row with a narrow
23-20 victory over in-state rival South Florida. Thanks to a perfect
conference mark of 7-0, UCF has already earned at least a share of the first-
ever AAC Championship, but a win this weekend would put the Knights into a BCS
game for the first time in program history.
Actually, the Knights have a chance to lock up a BCS appearance as early as
Thursday if the Louisville Cardinals take down the Cincinnati Bearcats, but
UCF is intent of controlling its own destiny.
"Our concern is SMU and winning the game. That's why we're playing," said UCF
head coach George O'Leary. "Thursday could be great for us or it doesn't
change anything. We have to win the game Saturday and that's how we're looking
As for the Mustangs, they had a chance to make themselves bowl eligible last
weekend for the fifth straight year, but the team was stopped in its tracks by
the Houston Cougars in a 34-0 shutout. Not only did the decision snap a brief
two-game win streak for SMU, it also marked the first time since 2004 that the
team was held scoreless.
"Not good, a lot of things to work on," noted SMU's freshman quarterback Neal
Burcham after his first start, "I'm always very critical of myself, and I have
to do better."
As far as the all-time series is concerned, the Knights have taken four of the
previous five meetings with SMU, including a 42-17 triumph in the most recent
matchup last season at home.
Blake Bortles threw a 52-yard TD pass to Breshad Perriman with under five
minutes remaining in regulation to put the Knights on top by three against USF
last week, but it was an interception by Jordan Ozerities with just over a
minute to play that sealed the win for UCF.
Bortles had his struggles as he converted 17-of-26 passes for 219 yards and
two touchdowns, suffering three sacks and a pair of interceptions, yet his
performance was still just enough to get the team over the hump. Because of
the sacks, UCF finished with a net of only 77 rushing yards.
Keeping the team in contention the entire way was kicker Shawn Moffitt who
knocked through all three of his field goal chances, rescuing a stalled UCF
offense numerous times. Moffitt, a perfect 40-of-40 on PATs, has made all but
one of his 20 field goal attempts this season.
When not calling on Moffitt to save the day, the UCF offense is riding the arm
of Bortles who has converted an impressive 68.0 percent of his passes for
276.2 ypg and a total of 22 touchdowns, against just seven INTs. Second on the
team with 36 catches, J.J. Worton has turned those opportunities into 617
yards and a team-best seven TDs.
Needing just 22 yards to reach 1,000 for the campaign, Storm Johnson takes the
lead in the rushing game for the Knights with his 5.4 yards per attempt and 11
Hard to believe that the SMU offense came up empty against the Cougars last
week, even as the unit ran 86 plays, 14 more than Houston. It certainly didn't
hurt the Mustangs that they were flagged 10 times for 90 yards either, but
there was more to the loss than just penalties.
The team was operating without quarterback Garrett Gilbert who was forced to
the sidelines with a knee injury and is again listed as questionable for the
final regular-season game as well. In his place, Burcham converted 27-of-52
passes for 212 yards, but he was sacked five times and tossed three
Darius Joseph tallied a game-high nine catches for 52 yards and Jeremy Johnson
turned his eight grabs into 75 yards, but because Burcham was taken down in
the backfield so many times, the Mustangs were left with just 83 net rushing
"We just didn't execute on both sides of the ball," linebacker/running back
Kevin Pope said of the defeat at Houston. "We'll go back to the drawing board,
and get it together. We'll come together as a team, keep our heads up, and
we'll be fine."
The SMU passing offense currently ranks seventh in the nation with 351.1 ypg,
but if Gilbert is not ready to go again then throwing Burcham into the fire is
the only option. Unfortunately, the rushing attack for the team really can't
help all that much as it averages a mere 95.2 ypg (116th), but that's long
been the case with teams coached by June Jones.
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, the pressure is all on them this weekend and
having to deal with possibly starting an inexperienced quarterback doesn't
help matters. Expect the Knights to put it all on the line Saturday, even if
their fate is already sealed Thursday night.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 41, SMU 17
12/04 10:42:58 ET
Powered by The Sports Network.