Photo courtesy of UCF athletics
UCF and SMU appear to be heading in different directions as they get set to meet in Dallas on Saturday.
The Knights got off to a disappointing 3-3 start, but come in as winners of three straight. SMU won its first seven games and ascended into the top 20, but has since dropped hard-fought contests to Houston and Memphis.
Defense has been a big reason for UCF’s resurgence and that will need to be the case again on Saturday against the Mustangs. During their 3-game winning streak, the Knights have allowed just 24 total points.
Auburn transfer Big Kat Bryant and Josh Celiscar headline the pass rush for the Knights. UCF has a very deep corps of linebackers as well. During its winning streak, UCF has forced seven turnovers.
UCF will be facing an SMU offense that averages more yards and points per game than anyone in the American Athletic Conference. It also ranks in the top 10 nationally in both categories. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai has nearly 2,900 yards passing already this season and ranks second nationally with 34 touchdown tosses. Danny Gray, Rashee Rice and Reggie Roberson Jr. are a talented trio out wide.
The units that have been struggling are the UCF offense and SMU defense. Since losing quarterback Dillon Gabriel for the season, UCF has taken a significant step back. Although backup Mikey Keene has struggled, there is talent at the skill positions. Running backs Isaiah Bowser, Johnny Richardson and wide receivers Ryan O’Keefe and Brandon Johnson are the players to watch for the UCF offense.
Defensively, SMU allows a lot of yards, but does a good job of not allowing a lot of points. Defensive end Gary Wiley and linebacker Delano Robinson are two players to watch for the Mustangs.
Both schools are likely out of the running to win the AAC, but a 10-win season is still at play. Saturday’s meeting will be the first between the teams since 2018. The Knights are 8-1 all-time against SMU and have won the last five. Saturday’s contest begins at 12 p.m. ET and airs on ESPNU.
Prediction: SMU 34, UCF 24
Other Games Across the State
No. 5 Cincinnati (9-0) at South Florida (2-7)
Friday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Cincinnati’s quest for a spot in the College Football Playoff continues as it heads to Tampa. South Florida has played much better in recent weeks and scored a season-high 42 points in last week’s loss to Houston. The Bearcats can actually clinch an AAC Championship berth this week.
Prediction: Cincinnati 34, South Florida 14
Samford (3-5) at Florida (4-5)
Saturday, Nov. 13 at 12 p.m. ET (SEC Network+)
After four losses in five games, an FCS opponent should allow Florida an opportunity to get it together. The Gators’ five losses is the most during head coach Dan Mullen’s tenure.
Prediction: Florida 47, Samford 14
Florida International (1-8) at Middle Tennessee (4-5)
Saturday, Nov. 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Among FBS schools, no one has a current longer active losing streak than Florida International. To make a bowl game, Middle Tennessee will need to win two of its next three games. Home dates with FIU and Old Dominion should offer that opportunity.
Prediction: Middle Tennessee 42, Florida International 23
Florida Atlantic (5-4) at Old Dominion (3-6)
Saturday, Nov. 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
After a loss to Marshall in a pivotal contest, Florida Atlantic will look to become bowl-eligible against Old Dominion. After a 1-6 start, the Monarchs have won consecutive games. It marked the first time that ODU had defeated FBS teams in consecutive games since 2017.
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 28, Old Dominion 17
Miami (5-4) at Florida State (3-6)
Saturday, Nov. 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Miami will play a game with a winning record for the first time this season. Thanks largely to Tyler Van Dyke, the Hurricanes have won three straight games, including two over ranked opponents. Florida State will try to avoid its fifth straight loss to its rivals.
Prediction: Miami 37, Florida State 27
Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-7)
Thursday, Nov. 11 at 8:20 p.m. ET (NFL Network)
The Miami Dolphins snapped a 7-game losing streak last week with a win over the Houston Texans. The challenge gets much tougher this week as the Baltimore Ravens come to town. A Miami native, this will be the second time playing at Hard Rock Stadium for Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Prediction: Baltimore 34, Miami 18
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) at Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
Sunday, Nov. 14 at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Jacksonville Jaguars pulled off the most shocking upset of the NFL season last week with a 9-6 win over the Buffalo Bills. They’ll travel this week to face an Indianapolis Colts team that looks to get to .500 after a 1-4 start. The Colts were the only team to lose to Jacksonville last season.
Prediction: Indianapolis 23, Jacksonville 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) at Washington Football Team (2-6)
Sunday, Nov. 14 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
The reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will head to the nation’s capital to face the Washington Football Team in a rematch of last season’s NFC Wild Card. Tampa Bay is just 2-2 on the road this season and coming off a bye week. Washington has lost four straight after a 2-2 start.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 38, Washington 21
Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.