USF enters the final game of the season with no possibility of a bowl berth. That is not to say, however, that they have nothing to play for in their final week. The Bulls will travel to rival UCF for the annual War on I-4. A win on Friday erases the pain of quite a few losses.
UCF comes into the contest with a 8-3 record, but statistically they have been stellar. They have an explosive offense and an aggressive, stifling defense. The Knights have probably been somewhat unlucky to have three losses, as they are statistically one of the top teams in the country. They will provide a great final test for USF.
What has enabled the Knights to have such an efficient season and still lose three games? Let’s take a closer look at the stats and schemes of Central Florida.
General Game Management
Marino Rule Plus
Even though some fans will tell you that USF has the worst third down offense in the country, the Bulls will actually field the better unit on Friday. USF ranks 66th , almost exactly average, in the country on third down conversions while UCF is ranked 83rd.
Third downs on defense is another story entirely. The Bulls are one of the worst teams on third down defensively, ranking 114th in opponents third down conversion percentage. Conversely, UCF is ranked 5th in opponent third down conversion percentage.
USF is 15th in the country in turnover margin while the Knights are 72nd. Both teams have similar average starting field position numbers. USF is slightly above the national average of the 29.5 yard line, while UCF is slightly below.
Yards Per Play (YPP) and Explosive Plays
The biggest statistical difference between the teams can be seen in the YPP numbers. USF is 101st on offense and 40th on defense. UCF, on the other hand, is in the top ten in both categories. The Knights are 10th on offense and 9th on defense. While UCF is a very good team, there may be some noise in their numbers.
USF has actually faced a much tougher schedule when averaging the opponents YPP numbers. The Bulls have played both better offenses and defenses this season, on average. Even so, the easier schedule doesn’t account for the large YPP margin between USF and Central Florida. One of the biggest reasons for the margin is explosive plays.
UCF is ranked 8th in the country in generating plays from scrimmage that go for 20+ yards. USF is sitting right at average, ranking 65th in the country, Defensively the Knights rank 19th in the country at limiting explosive plays, while the Bulls are slightly below average at 71st.
Central Florida Offense
UCF is an explosive run-first offense. They have an abundance of skill players and an accurate triggerman at quarterback. UCF is ranked 27th in yards per rushing attempt and 11th in yards per pass attempt. The Knights use their run game to set up a very efficient passing game through play-actions and RPOs. Let’s take a closer look at the schemes of the UCF offense.
UCF couples a creative run game with their ability to win one-on-one in the passing game to create a very difficult offense to defend. Add to that the Knights fast tempo, and you have the recipe to score a lot of points. They will test the USF defense in many of the same ways Memphis did last week. Hopefully the Bulls will be more up to the task this week.
Central Florida Defense
While the UCF offense gets a lot of praise, their defense has been the best statistical unit on the team. The Knights are 25th in opponent yards per rushing attempt and 7th in opponent yards per pass attempt. They run a 4-2-5 base and use a lot of movement on defense, especially at the line of scrimmage. They will play both one-high and two-high coverages, mixing both man and zone. Let’s take a closer look at these schemes and what the Bulls can expect to see from this defense on Friday.
I would expect Central Florida to play very aggressively against USF. The Bulls will have to hit some big plays to loosen up the defense. If they are unable to win some one-on-one battles, it could be a long night.
Can USF Win?
There is a path to victory for USF. The Bulls will have to play well, but there are some common factors to every Central Florida loss.
The Bulls will need to slow down the Central Florida running game. The Knights have struggles to run the ball in their three losses. USF must also win the turnover battle. Every time the Knights have lost the turnover battle this season, they have also lost the game. The Central Florida offense is too good to stop completely, but if you can hold them in the red zone your chances of winning greatly increase. In their three losses not only do they score less often in the red zone, but they are forced to settle for field goals much more often. If USF can follow this formula defensively, and get some big plays out of their offense, they will have a chance to pull the upset.
Dan Fouts repeatedly said, much to the chagrin of Brent Musburger, in the award-winning Adam Sandler vehicle, The Waterboy, “It’s the last game of the year. Can’t hold anything back”. While he was speaking of the fictional South Central Lousiana State University Mud Dogs and their rivalry game in the Bourbon Bowl, he may as well have been speaking about USF. Because it is the last game of the year for the Bulls. And while Bobby Boucher is not going to come walking through that door, maybe we finally get the Eddie McDoom break out game. Or the Kelley Joiner game. Or the Randall St. Felix game. Maybe years from now we’ll be saying “Remember that time Kirk Rygol showed up at halftime and Bulls won the War on I-4, do ya?”. Who knows? It’s the last game of the year. Can’t hold anything back. Let’s get weird.