Photo courtesy of UCF athletics
For UCF to have any chance at winning its third American Athletic Conference title in four years, it will need to do something that no one else has this season — beat Cincinnati.
The Bearcats will enter the Bounce House on Saturday with a record of 7-0 and ranked No. 7 in the country. Cincinnati is solid on both sides of the ball with quarterback Desmond Ridder leading the offense.
Ridder has thrown for nearly 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns, but is most dangerous with his legs. Ridder has 469 yards rushing and a team-high nine touchdowns while averaging nearly nine yards per rush. Gerrid Doaks leads the Cincinnati ground attack while four different players have at least 200 yards receiving.
The strength for the Bearcats however is the defense. Cincinnati ranks ninth nationally in total defense and third in scoring defense. It will be facing a UCF team that leads the country in total offense. UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel leads the country in passing yards per game. Gabriel has nearly 2,800 yards passing this season and 23 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions.
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The Knights are also loaded at the skill positions with Otis Anderson and Greg McCrae in the backfield. Out wide, Marlon Williams and Jaylon Robinson both rank in the top five nationally in receiving yards. The two have combined for nearly 1,800 yards receiving and 12 touchdown catches.
Cincinnati will pose the best defense that UCF has seen all season. Through seven games, no one has scored more than 20 points on the Bearcats this season. Linebacker Jarell White is the top tackler for Cincinnati while Coby Bryant and Ahmad Gardner each have three interceptions. Defensive end Myjai Sanders ranks second in the AAC with five sacks.
After a rough start, UCF has found its footing defensively in recent weeks. Safety Richie Grant is one of the better players in the country at his position and leads the team with three interceptions and 49 total tackles. As a team, the Knights have forced more turnovers than anyone else in the nation with 19.
Turnovers were the story last season as Cincinnati forced four in a 27-24 victory that snapped UCF’s 19-game conference winning streak. The Bearcats finished with 192 yards on the ground.
Cincinnati has never won at UCF. It will look to change that when the teams meet at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. The contest airs on ESPN.
Prediction: UCF 33, Cincinnati 31
Other Games Across the State
Massachusetts (0-2) at Florida Atlantic (4-1)
Friday, Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Head coaches Willie Taggart and Walt Bell are familiar with one another. Bell worked as Taggart’s offensive coordinator in 2018 at Florida State. FAU will look to continue to play well. The Owls have gotten a spark offensively since Javion Posey entered the lineup at quarterback.
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 52, Massachusetts 7
No. 4 Clemson (7-1) at Florida State (2-6)
Saturday, Nov. 21 at 12 p.m. ET (ABC)
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence returns from COVID-19 protocols as Clemson aims for its sixth straight win over Florida State. The Tigers handed FSU its worst ACC loss ever in its last trip to Tallahassee two years ago. The winner of this annual contest has won the ACC each year since 2011.
Prediction: Clemson 59, Florida State 12
No. 6 Florida (5-1) at Vanderbilt (0-6)
Saturday, Nov. 21 at 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask threw six touchdown passes in last week’s win over Arkansas and leads the nation with 28. Vanderbilt is the only SEC team currently without a win. The Gators have won 30 of the last 31 meetings.
Prediction: Florida 55, Vanderbilt 20
Florida International (0-4) at Western Kentucky (3-6)
Saturday, Nov. 21 at 2 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Florida International is the last Conference USA team without a win. Western Kentucky ranks last in the conference, averaging less than 15 points per game. Visiting teams are 4-2 in the last six games in the series.
Prediction: Western Kentucky 21, Florida International 13
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)
Sunday, Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Despite winning six Super Bowls, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 9-0 for the first time in their history. The Jacksonville Jaguars have dropped eight straight since winning their opener. Only the Dallas Cowboys yield more points per game than the Jaguars.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 34, Jacksonville 16
Miami Dolphins (6-3) at Denver Broncos (3-6)
Sunday, Nov. 22 at 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Miami Dolphins have won five straight games and are off to their best 9-game start since 2001. With a win, Miami would move into a first-place tie in the AFC East. Denver quarterback Drew Lock will likely be healthy enough to start on Sunday.
Prediction: Miami 31, Denver 23
Los Angeles Rams (6-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)
Monday, Nov. 23 at 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Tom Brady will be facing the Los Angeles Rams for the first time since Super Bowl LIII when he was a member of the New England Patriots. The Rams rank second in the NFL in both total and scoring defense. Tampa Bay is just 1-2 this season in prime time with its lone victory being a 2-point win over the New York Giants.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 26, L.A. Rams 23