USF is playing UCF again, with a conference championship and BCS berth on the line…for UCF. This is a classic tale of two cities: USF had their historic rise to national prominence and now toils in mediocrity, while UCF is now on the verge of a BCS game, a feat the Bulls could never manage to accomplish. The crazy uncle finally got their life in order (though through questionable methods) while USF seems to have hit crisis mode. Lovely!
The Knights are currently sitting on their highest ranking in school history, riding on the backs of QB Blake Bortles and RB Storm Johnson. They have the #34 total offense in America, averaging 455 yards a game and ninth in passing efficiency. Their defense is #28, with their rushing D being #21 and their secondary being #69, so that could potentially be a hole- that is, if only USF’s passing offense wasn’t so bad (#109). USF’s offense (#120) will most likely continue to struggle, but the Bulls defense (#30) has the ability to get off the field, and will need to often for the Bulls to hang around.
The key match up might be in the passing game. If USF can contain Bortles, they might have a shot to hang around for awhile. That is probably easier said then done however, as if you compare Bortles’s stats to AJ McCarron (a QB good enough to lead his team to a likely 3rd straight national championship appearance and a comparison UCF fans like to make), they’re pretty similar. McCarron’s raw QBR is only .3 higher than Bortles. They also have a similar amount of yards and completion rating, though Bortles gets more possessions since his defense isn't All-Interplanetary.
Miami transfer Storm Johnson has been excellent this year with 916 yards on 172 carries and 11 TDs. He and Marcus Shaw could pretty much cancel each other out though as they have very similar averages (5.3 to 5.4) and Johnson only has more yards because Shaw missed two games due to injury. The kicking matchup should also be interesting, as two of the top kickers in the country are squaring off. UCF has Shawn Moffitt (no relation to Ben)- a Lou Groza Award Semifinalist, while USF has Marvin Kloss (one of few bright spots so far this year)- a Lou Groza Award Finalist.
The game should prove to be a good one, and I predict it to be closer than people think. Remember a lot of UCF wins have come late in the 4th quarter. They needed two touchdowns in 9 seconds to beat Memphis, who is not exactly the best team in the world with a 3-7 record. A touchdown with 23 seconds left got them past Louisville. They barely survived Houston, who almost beat UCF in the last minute of the game. And who could forget the spectacular one handed catch against Temple by J.J. Worton to get them tied, leading to a field goal with two seconds left for the win.
All that means UCF is beatable. Beatable enough for USF to win? Probably not. There's a reason the spread is still 27 points, but it'll be a good game nonetheless. You would think every trick play and gadget in USF's playbook gets emptied on the field today, and having no fear and nothing to lose out there can certainly be liberating.
But will it be enough? We'll find out in eight hours.