When Cardinal fans were looking over the schedule at the beginning of the season there were a few games that stood out from the rest. One of those games will take place under the Friday Night lights of Papa Johns Stadium this week when the University of Central Florida Knights come to town for an AAC showdown. Just like last week this game will have the prime-time spot at 8PM on ESPN, and will give our Cardinals a chance to shine in front of a national audience. Louisville leads the series against UCF 1-0, and won the only game that has been played between these teams 42 to 21 back in 1985. This Friday will also be the 100th game played at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Since the 1998 opening, the Cardinals are 74-25 in the oven.
Coach Strong Previews UCF
(Video Courtesy @TheCrunchZone
There are a lot of gifted athletes in the state of Florida and several of them are playing at Central Florida. This is a really solid football team. After a ten win season in 2012 including a Bowl victory the Knights have started off this season 4-1 with an impressive road win at Penn State. There only loss coming at the hands of then 12th ranked South Carolina by three points.
The UCF offense is a good one and features one of the AAC’s top quarterbacks in Blake Bortles. The 6 foot 4 junior has thrown for 1334 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He is second behind Teddy in passing efficiency at 144.5 and is sixth in passing yards a game 218.5. Bortles will throw to five of his top six receivers from last year, including top three targets Breshad Perriman, J.J. Worton and Rannell Hall. Perriman leads the group with 397 yards and one touchdown. Hall is second with 373 yards and three touchdowns. These two have combined for five 100-yard receiving games this season. Worton has 177 yards and 3 touchdowns. Josh Reese, Jeff Godfrey also have over a 100 yards on the season. To say this team is a threat through the air is an understatement. They have a fast, veteran, athletic group in the receiving corps.
The Knights were tasked with replacing 1,000 yard rusher Latavius Murray this season and Storm Johnson has answered the call with 455 yards and accounting for 7 of the teams 19 touchdowns.
Blocking up front for these guys, the Knights return three of their starting lineman from a year ago. Since giving up four to Akron in the season opener, the offensive line has held FIU (one), Penn State (zero), South Carolina (two) and Memphis (one) to only four sacks in the last four outings.
The Louisville defense put on a clinic Thursday night and will need another solid outing in this one to contain this good offensive group. The 2nd ranked Cardinal defense is surrendering 7.3 points (leads FBS) and 229.5 yards per outing and have racked up 23 sacks in 2013 with 8 in the last game. The Cards defensive ends Marcus Smith and Lorenzo Mauldin both rank among the nation’s best. Mauldin has a team best seven sacks and thats tied for fifth best in the nation. Smith’s six sacks place him in a tie for eighth in the country. Getting to Bortles Friday will be key and these two will be up for the challenge. It should be fun watching these units go after each other.
The Knights were one of the top defenses in the country in multiple statistical categories last year and are again this season. This unit is anchored by linebacker Terrance Plummer, safety Clayton Geathers, and defensive back Jacoby Glenn. Plummer led the Knights in tackles in the first four games, has 40 tackles on the season including a leading 5 for loss. Geathers has collected 228 tackles during his career, including 42 in 2013 and Glenn is tied for 22nd in the nation by averaging 1.4 passes defended a game (six break-ups, one interception). That also is good for second in The American.
Up front, the Knights return a strong unit and they had five sacks in the win at Memphis. They have been a handful for opposing offensive lines. This UCF defensive group has five picks and seven fumble recoveries this year, and stands plus-7 in turnover margin. That margin ranks tied for sixth in the FBS. They rank 11th in the country and second in the league in fumbles recovered.
In the win over Rutgers the Cards 16th ranked offense had a 300-yard passer, 100-yard receiver, and a 100-yard rusher. Teddy and company are averaging 41.0 points and 505.3 yards per game, and rank first in college football in third-down conversion percentage (63.6). I don’t see them having too many problems solving the riddle of this UCF defense, but it won’t be easy.
This could end up being the best game of the season and things could get very interesting on Friday night. UCF looks at this season as their one opportunity to grab that elusive automatic BCS bid and they know that road leads through Louisville. They have had extra time to prepare for the Cardinals during their bye week and will come into this game ready to go. I look for this to be an instant classic and a battle all the way. I give the Cards the advantage with a rowdy home crowd, a Heisman Quarterback, and the nations 2nd best defense. Our Cards will be 7-0 after this week.
The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 33 UCF 24